Medical marijuana dispensary opens in downtown HR

The waiting room of The Gorge Green Cross, Hood River’s first medical marijuana dispensary, looks like any other.

Reading material lies on an end table. Framed photographs of the Cascade Mountains and other natural scenes hang on the wall, which is painted in soft, green tones. A row of comfy black chairs line the other wall, where patients with a variety of ailments can wait to be seen. Two windows are located at one end of the room, one where new patients submit their information, the other for established patients.

Inside, however, is different. On one end of a large glass display case, similar to what one might find in a jewelry store, over a dozen strains of cannabis, with names that include “Shiskaberry,” “Jolly Rancher,” “Sour Diesel,” “Maui Bubble Gift,” and “Cherry Pie Dog [expletive].” At the other end of the case are an array of bongs, bubblers, bowls and other smoking devices. A colorful framed promotional poster for the Seattle Cannabis Cup — a marijuana-judging competition — and course completion certificates from Portlandersterdam University — an institution in Portland that offers classes on marijuana growing — hang on the wall. Also on the walls are security cameras, both inside and out, that record video 24/7.

Despite the posters and the often ludicrous-sounding names of the marijuana strains, Michael Rachford and Micha Rieschert, the owners and operators of The Gorge Green Cross, are serious about the medical side of marijuana, which Rachford prefers to refer to as cannabis, its scientific name.

While wearing a white lab coat, Rachford opens up a binder with information on the 13 strains of marijuana the dispensary currently carries. While the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program requires tests to evaluate the mold, pesticide, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD) content of any marijuana shipment that comes into a dispensary, Rachford said he goes a step further, obtaining a chemical analysis from a lab in Wilsonville that graphs the levels of essential oils and other chemical properties of each strain. The properties of each strain are different — a chemical pedigree of sorts — and the analysis is used to determine whether the strain the grower says he or she is selling is accurate.

“We meet or well-exceed all (the state’s) standards,” Rachford proudly explains. “We would like to be a model dispensary; we would like to be an example for dispensaries statewide.”

Both Rachford and Rieschert, who are partners as well as business partners, tout the medical side of marijuana and say they opened the business to help the patients gain access to medicine, which they say can be a better alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Both are medical card holders themselves: Rachford for diverticulitis, which he says afflicts him with violent bouts of nausea, and Rieschert for ovarian cysts and other ailments. Rieschert says she has lost several family members, most recently her mother, to cancer, and believes marijuana could have helped them.

So far the clinic, located in a house next door to Brian’s Pourhouse on Oak Street, has only been open for about a week, but Rachford says on average about 10 cardholders a day stop in. Rachford says the community has so far been “very warm, very welcoming,” including Police Chief Neal Holste, whom he said drove by the dispensary one day with a smile and a wave.

Unlike recreational marijuana stores over in Washington which just opened last week (including one in Bingen), Rachford says he hasn’t had any supply issues, because Oregon has been licensing medical marijuana growers for years. And unlike in Washington, where retail pot shops have been selling their product at prices up to $30 a gram, Rachford’s cannabis is going for $8.

Rieschert says that helping people, not money, is the driving purpose behind The Gorge Green Cross.

“You’re going to get really safe medicine for really reasonable prices,” she says, “and that’s the way it should be.”

The Gorge Green Cross is located at 602 Oak St. and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, call the dispensary at 541-490-5441.

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