Wal-Mart of weed

Dhar Mann, 26, and Derek Peterson, 36, are the owners of the weGrow marijuana superstore in Oakland, California. The 15,000 square-foot weGrow is just their first hit though. Mann and Peterson are also shooting a reality show pilot, training medical pot growers, and manufacturing high-end grow gear. They say they're in contract on 75 franchise stores in 5 states and are considering an IPO. According to Mann, their vision is to become the "Wal-Mart of Weed." From Mother Jones (Chris Buck photo):
 Files Images Pot400Crop THE SEEDS for weGrow were planted in early 2009, when Dhar Mann received a visit at his property-management firm from a tenant whose office had just been burglarized. Mann was about to call the cops when the tenant confessed that he wasn't actually a caterer, as he'd claimed on his lease. He was a medical cannabis grower, and he'd been using his space to cultivate six dozen plants.

The notion of being a landlord for pot growers intrigued Mann, the scion of Oakland's largest taxicab company, who'd founded a mortgage refinancing mill and a luxury-car rental company before he'd turned 25. He paid $500 to enroll in courses at Oaksterdam University, started in 2007 by longtime legalization advocate Richard Lee to provide technical and legal training to would-be growers. Looking at the old-school potheads studying at "America's first cannabis college," Mann realized he could fill a niche. "Everybody I was meeting was a little bit older, more a part of the hippie generation," he recalls. "I was like, 'I bet there's so much room for innovation and new ideas.'"

His first enterprise was igrow420.com, a kind of Facebook for potheads that never took off. Undeterred, he rented a giant warehouse (from his dad) and prepared to become a grower. When he walked into a hydroponics store in Berkeley and asked how to start a pot farm, the salesman kicked him out. A federal ban on selling pot paraphernalia and comedian Tommy Chong's 2003 imprisonment for selling bongs have scared most hydro shops into avoiding any mention of marijuana.

That's when Mann switched gears again: He'd create "the first honest hydro store," one that didn't perpetuate the charade that its customers are spending thousands of dollars growing amazing tomatoes. When the PR shop that was managing weGrow's grand opening in January 2010 handed him a press release that read "Urban gardening megastore opens by airport," Mann fired the firm and rewrote the release himself: "Marijuana Superstore Opens in East Oakland."

"Weedmart: Marijuana Superstores. IPOs. Reality TV."


  1. I could do with a huge megastore right about now. I’ve done gone and run out.
    legalise etc.

    haven’t clicked through to the link, is this bone fide legal or shades-of-grey legal or simply feds-waiting-until-they-think-they’ll-scare-the-most-crap-out-of-people-before-they-bust-them legal?

  2. They’ll probably get harassed at some point, but getting the message out early will help establish the arbitrariness of those raids.

  3. I think this is ‘State of California Says It’s Legal & The DEA Says It’s Not Legal.’ But I may be wrong. DOJ Secretary Holder had said the feds were going to stop busting medical marijuana growers, but apparently the narks in California haven’t been grounded yet.

  4. They better encrypt their customer list. There used to be a hydroponics store in Portland Oregon that got real big selling to dope growers. The feds came in, seized their customer list and used it to start going after their entire customer base. I expect that will happen here as well.

  5. Wal-Mart of weed? No thanks. How about just be as successful as you can without modeling yourself after a megalomaniacal, scummy company like Wal-Mart?

    I hope it was just a bad choice of words.

    1. But that really is the most accurate moniker, in every detail. The recently defeated legalization proposition here was pushed by the grow-op cartel in Oakland. It contained many provisions guaranteed to lock the few larger established ops into a monopoly. There is a lot of money and corruption here. It is not a bunch of barefoot, long-haired people peacefully tilling the rich earth.

      I don’t use the stuff and never will, but even for an uninvolved party it’s easy to see that business sector will not be immune to ethics problems. The illegal nature of the substance has been selecting for those who have little to lose and less to respect. Legalization will not mean a rapid influx of those with average business ethics (especially if the existing ops have their way), so there will always be an aura of shadiness in that sector.

      If legalization does come about, finally there will be a business sector that makes the payday loan and used car salesmen feel good about their work.

      1. If legalization does come about, finally there will be a business sector that makes the payday loan and used car salesmen feel good about their work.

        As opposed to alcohol distributers, my friend?

        1. “If legalization does come about, finally there will be a business sector that makes the payday loan and used car salesmen feel good about their work.”

          No no – I think she’s referring to that “happy time” after the salespeople and loan officers get home from their respective jobs, and light one up to relax.

          But you are right though – the alcohol people are after that market too.

  6. Hydroponic cultivation is unsustainable. No matter how slick they try to make its image, leaky diesel generators is not the way forward.

  7. It doesn’t matter. The walls are tumbling down. I live in a small town in the ”Green Triangle.” of Northern California where everyone seems to be a grower. Last year’s crop was so plentiful that great bud is currently selling for as low as $500 a pound. There’s a market for the shiny hydroponic things, of course, but the ”long-haired people” are still ”tilling the rich earth.” It’s still a nickel’s worth of water and five cents worth of sunshine around here. Oakland? … yawn.

  8. This is corruption pure and simple. Pot in CA was supposed to be a non-profit venture. What’s happening is that people with money are using their advantage to squeeze out the competition. Ask yourself why some dispensaries are allowed and others rejected? Why are some raided and prosecuted for being “for-profit”, while others are allowed to rake in millions?

    “Since 2009, Mann and his employees have donated $4,300 to Quan and three other council members including Brooks, who recently signed on to a proposal to have the city issue permits for large-scale growing operations. I asked her what criteria the council would use to pick Oakland’s most reputable cannabis entrepreneurs. She laughed as Mann cut in, “Tall, good-looking, handsome.”


    “Based on current prices, such a factory would generate about $60 million in annual revenue, more than twice the gross receipts for Oakland’s four medical marijuana dispensaries last year. ”

    ““Our real goal is to eliminate a lot of the public problems stemming from illegal and unregulated cultivation,” said Dhar Mann, an Oakland businessman who plans to apply for one of the permits if the proposal passes. ”


    So it’s not really about the profit, it’s about ending “illegal and unregulated cultivation”? How stupid does he think we are?

  9. It’s not weed anymore, any more than Golden Delicious is a crab apple. Unless you’ve actually smelled the higher quality buds, you have no idea how far they’ve come. If they weren’t illegal, flower shops would be selling them for their beauty and fragrance.

    1. a guy just told me how he would cut weed with catnip to stretch it.
      i can’t imagine that even being passable in the here and now.
      the weed in the day must have been pretty bad if no one noticed that kind of weenieness.

  10. crap man. i thought this was going to be a hydroponic “pick your own buds” kind of walmart, like going to a farm and picking your own apples.
    pharm to hand, forget the middleman.
    i would be picking off the buds and eating them like blueberries.

  11. Plenty of people do actually shop at hydroponic shops to get the equipment needed to grow awesome hydroponic tomatoes.

  12. Pot will never be legal in the USA because DUI is a 300 billion dollar business and the beer companies enjoy a monopoly. Adolphus Busch will rise from his grave and kill every American before he gives up the milk of his barley to a weed you can grow for (as has already been astutely pointed out) 5ç and some sunshine. You actually think cops want to work real crimes, or better yet, prevent them… versus drive around in the fancy Crown Vic ‘martini glass with the red line through it’ car?… After seeing you stumble out of the bar? Are you high? Oh wait, you’re a Boing Boing reader.

    So in the one corner you have $300 Billion to the legal system and police forces + the worlds biggest companies vs Oakland’s Marijuana Superstore. Anyone taking bets? I bet California falls into the Pacific Ocean before these guys sell their first bong.

    I will put it to you simply.

    You can’t have legal anything until a pot breathalyzer is developed to appease the police union, and people stop drinking budweiser. Ummm yeah, I said it. Put down the bud, “no”, the other one. Great. Now get the other hundred million Americans who imbibe beer to the same. Easy right?

    Better chance of Nascar switching to bio-diesel or hybrid-electric.

    I was in Atlanta when the Feds busted “Southern Lights”… those guys got 10 year minimums for selling this stuff, then they confiscated the ledger and busted everyone they sold too, and some of them got 10 years as well. Over some lights and some weed…

    Times have changed a little, but still. When I was a kid we had to find dealers, and if you weren’t cool, then you couldn’t get any (but that’s another story). Can’t you people find dealers? I actually like the screening process… (hint: move to someplace you can surf).

    Don’t mess around with this stuff people, sip your tinnie, and do what you are told. Otherwise, you are up against the police, the tea baggers, the alcoholics, and the faux hippies who have lost their cash crop (personally, the cops have nothing on those wackos).

    As Keith Richards says: “Keep it in the dark”. If everyone gets it, it’s gonna suck. Just go to Holland if you don’t believe me… their country is underwater and they are happy as shit.

    1. You can’t have legal anything until a pot breathalyzer is developed to appease the police union, and people stop drinking budweiser

      Perhaps they should instead develop a standard test for the physiological status deemed necessary to drive. Visual acuity, reaction time, etc. Then it wouldn’t matter if the user had a couple of beers, a spliff, or had just taken too much Nyquil.

      No need for substance discrimination if the goal is to determine whether the user can safely operate a vehicle.

  13. They guy is a suit looking for another business venture, hoping to own the niche before their really big money moves in. Think Web 1.0 just after search engines just before the realisation that a single gateway site could try to hold people in its domain and turn clicks into ad revenue and how much that mentality improved the net. You know, those pages in web 2.0 that try to snag search queries to earn clicks for redundant domains. Yes those ones.

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