Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

May 24, 2010
Marijuana 'micro-brewer' says he's a 'neighborhood pharmacist'

Around the time the construction industry took a tumble, John Shiner took one himself. The long-time subdivision builder suffered a severe back injury and couldn't return to the industry he had worked in for 22 years.

But he realized he had a fallback option.

"I was staring at the ceiling, wondering what I was going to do," Shiner said. "I'm only good at a few things and growing marijuana is one of the things I'm good at."

At 15, Shiner surprised his mother "with this strange plant in the garden" and then got her tips on better cultivation. He perfected them for years to come.

At 46, the injured, displaced construction worker officially went into the medical marijuana trade.

He partnered with Sara Sinclair, a former corporate manager. Their modest SaraJane Cooperative Inc. opened on 21st Street in Sacramento's Midtown.

Shiner says the small medical pot outlet is a departure "from the large Wal-mart dispensary" that may feature dozens of marijuana strains from multiple growers.

In this case, Shiner is the only grower. He considers himself medical marijuana's equivalent to a micro-brewer.

"I'm old school," he says. "I make my own mulch. I purify my own water. I make my own nutrients. I keep everything organic."

And so he offers up his indoor-grown "Grape Jelly Crush," a cross between "Grape Ape" and "Purple Kush." He says medical users find it "really, really effective on back pain and chronic pain."

He shows off his indoor "White Widow." He says it's "patients who like to be out in the garden and they don't want their pain to stop their daily activities."

And he points out his outdoor-grown "Grandaddy Purple" product. He calls it "Mandarin" because he planted it next to a mandarin tree. "It's got a nice citrusy taste and smell," he says.

And Shiner? He's found a new niche in his long-standing passion.

"I'm a neighborhood pharmacist," he says. "I know the first names of the people coming through my door."

He adds: "My business is this neighborhood."

For a glimpse of Shiner's current vocation, see the video - produced by Andy Alfaro of The Sacramento Bee - below.

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