Cogan Schneier, USA TODAY
With farmers markets all the rage these days, especially in the summer, a new kind of farmers market is budding on the West Coast — medical marijuana farmers markets.
Marijuana use prescribed by a doctor is legal in 23 states, and farmers markets featuring locally grown cannabis and other marijuana products have begun to pop up in Washington, California, Oregon and Arizona.
These markets are strictly medicinal; patrons need to show a doctor’s recommendation or medical marijuana identification card to get in, depending on the state. Market vendors set up booths to advertise and sell their cannabis, pot-infused edible products, topical creams and all sorts of ganja goodies.
Michael Keysor founded the Northwest Cannabis Market in Seattle in 2011. Keysor, the market’s CEO, started with a smaller market and eventually expanded to two locations. Now he oversees 26 market employees and nearly 400 vendors. His markets are open seven days a week.
Keysor says his market strictly follows city and state regulations, assuring the community that his market is only for medicinal purposes and offers quality products.
In other states, marijuana farmers markets have seen a different fate. The California Heritage Market in Los Angeles was shut down after city attorney Mike Feuer filed a complaint after the market opened on July 4.
Feuer argued that the farmers market violated city pot dispensary laws, because city law prohibits multiple marijuana vendors to sell on one site. He also said the market was a public nuisance. A judge halted the market’s operation until a hearing Aug. 6.
In Colorado, marijuana activist Justin Hartfield tried a different approach. Hartfield petitioned city regulators last year to allow the sale of marijuana at the city’s Sunday farmers market. Hartfield says he thought the market could be an alternative to pot dispensaries, which were not yet allowed in Boulder.
Though Hartfield had a few conversations with public officials, he says in the end, the city simply wasn’t ready yet in terms of regulation.
Patrick von Keyserling, communications director for the city of Boulder, says city law requires marijuana be sold indoors. It also cannot be brought within 1000 feet from a school, and the farmers market in Boulder is across the street from high school athletic fields. He says currently, the Boulder city council has no plans to change these regulations.
Still, Hartfield remains hopeful.
“I think places like Colorado, we’re gonna get it right,” Hartfield says. “Clearly there’s a huge need for medical patients to connect with growers.”
Keysor says, “It’s just like your local pharmacy. You like to have that person behind the counter you can trust, who knows about your history.”
Patients who use medicinal marijuana have varied and specific needs, Keysor says. Some people prefer edibles but need gluten-free products, while some would like an herbal tea but don’t want caffeine. Keysor, who has arthritis, treats the pain with marijuana.
The details can be crucial for patients, says Alex Cooley, co-founder and vice president at Solstice Grown, a marijuana production center that does some business with farmers markets. Different strains of cannabis can have different effects. Cooley says even the way marijuana is administered -whether it is eaten, smoked or applied as a cream – can affect how a patient reacts.
Keysor says perhaps the best product of the market is the sense of community.
“It brings competition together, it brings together people of like minds,” Keysor says. “And it brings ideas so the product can grow, change and help our patients more.”