The Wal-Mart of weed is coming to Sacramento. At least that's the moniker embraced by weGrow, a cavernous hydroponics store enthusiastically marketing itself as a retail outlet for people cultivating marijuana for personal medicinal use. 325.
The 10,000-square-foot weGrow store, which opens this weekend at 1537 Fulton Ave., is the first national franchise serving as a supply and training destination for legal pot growers.
The enterprise started in Oakland last year as a warehouse store called iGrow and doesn't sell marijuana. Yet the gardening emporium attracted national attention for embracing the marijuana culture. It featured an on-site doctor offering medical pot recommendations and sales staff pitching grow lights and nutrients while teaching people how to raise bountiful cannabis buds.
The Oakland location is being reorganized as a distribution hub for a network of retail hydroponics outlets. The Sacramento store -- billed as "the first honest hydro store" -- is to be followed by weGrow stores in Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon in coming months.
"I just thought it was a statement to have something close to the state Capitol," said Dhar Mann, who founded the original iGrow in January 2010. "It's a statement of how progressive the industry has become. We're all about coming out of the shadows."
With California, 14 other states and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana for medical use, the hydroponics industry is exploding. But, unlike weGrow, most hydroponics outlets avoid any mention of marijuana, billing themselves only as generic suppliers for people growing anything from peppers to rosemary.
Hydroponics stores traditionally are leery of mentioning marijuana because pot cultivation remains illegal under federal law.
"We're very strict. We don't sell equipment for the purpose of growing marijuana," said Chris Corsello, manager of J Street HydroGarden in midtown Sacramento. He said if anyone asks for tips on growing pot, "We say, 'Sorry, we can't tell you anything.' "
Michael Garcia, operator of the Sacramento weGrow franchise, said employees will talk about marijuana only if customers show proof of a physician's recommendation for medical use. For those who do, weGrow will offer on-site classes in marijuana cultivation. It also promotes its online "University of Cannabis."