Green Releaf store front

The Green Releaf Columbia location, located off of East Broadway, next door to downtown Columbia.

Medical marijuana has taken a large step forward in Missouri, and in states across the nation. Missouri legalized medical marijuana in 2018, joining the other 36 states in the U.S. that have also legalized it.

With that large step, people may have questions about marijuana and how medical marijuana facilities operate. Vox spoke with Holly Whitmire, store manager at Green Releaf, a dispensary in Columbia, to learn more about the local business and the industry.

Green Releaf is a medical marijuana dispensary with five locations in Missouri. Green Releaf has dispensaries in Mexico, Troy, Moberly, Columbia, and Liberty. One of the services that Green Releaf provides along with providing medical marijuana to their patients, is the ability for people to get a medical marijuana certification with a physician's diagnosis.

(The following questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.) 

What are some of the common reasons customers have for using medical marijuana?

So, you get all walks of life. A big common reason you get is for pain. The biggest one is chronic pain — be it from back injuries, neck injuries, diseases, cancer, you name it. Pain is the most popular one that you get. That would be why indica tends to be a popular one, because most people take that one to relaxand get their mind off of it and not hurt. Indicas hit the body a little harder.

Another big one is anxiety. That's why I chose to be a patient, because anxiety just gets the better of a lot of people. You'll see it in here even. Some people have such bad anxiety that some of our patients don't even want to come in and purchase because people see them. 

What would you say are some common misconceptions about medical marijuana?

I would say the biggest one is probably a sensitive one that I'm gonna go ahead and tackle: "the gateway drug." It's something that we still use to this day. Yes, (marijuana) has the psychoactive effects, but it shouldn't be considered a drug. If we're not gonna call alcohol "the gateway drug," which it is — we're legally allowed to go in and buy it at 21, you don't think that buzz is what gets us gateway-ing into wanting more? You get that at young ages. People sneak you that. That's so easily accessible these days. I don't believe in that.

I believe if people use it (marijuana) as a gateway drug, then they were going to struggle with those tendencies in their life anyway, and, honestly, if used correctly, marijuana has helped millions of people come off of the harder drugs. It's one of those that can actually help, and it's the only one that is all natural. It grows from the ground. So that's the big misconception that I would like people to destroy.

What is the difference between vaporizing and traditional methods of smoking medical marijuana?

So vaporizers, you have dry herb vaporizers, and then you have concentrate vaporizers that are very simple. It just heats up the concentrate (and) smokes it that way instead of torch. Nothing really different about it. Dry herb is the one that I was speaking about. That's the one that you're going to use flower in.

And the main idea of a real vaporizer is that it does convection instead of conduction. So, pretty much, it heats it without burning it, for simple terms. Heats it without burning because you end up with like a brownish, leafy substance instead of a black bunch. I have some of them that will still do some conduction and actual burning. And you will get some black and some resins, but it still won't burn it all to ash and leaves. A lot of those thicker carcinogens and what's not good for you are kind of in there, and you just toss it out.

Medical Marijuana photo 12

Green Releaf offers apparel and various medical marijuana accessories, displaying its merchandise in the front of the store. It is one of the seven dispensaries open in the Boone County area.

What goals do you have for medical marijuana for the future, and for Green Releaf?

The current goal is just to be consistent. We want the options of everything. We want to be the first thing that you can always rely on to have the medication that you need. We strive to be the professional medical facility. We want to be fun and relatable, because of course we get that everyone has the high mentality, but we strive for professional appliance. We want you to know that you are safe to buy your medicine here. You can talk about getting high, about wanting to get a bong, of course you can, please do. But we're here to help you with your medical needs. We care, and we want everyone to really know that.

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