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Pot: A growing business

Downtown hydroponics store part of statewide trend
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Owners of the new hydroponics store in Downtown Auburn are taking a “live and let live” approach to their customers. James Grubbs and Josh Clinton say growing marijuana is not the shop’s primary focus. “We don’t look down on it or promote it either,” James Grubbs said Tuesday. “We sell (the equipment and supplies) and they do what they want with it.” High Street Hydro, which opened at the beginning of the year, carries everything for the indoor grower as well as top-grade fertilizers, nutrients and other products for “dirt” growers. The inventory ranges from starter packs and fluorescent light setups for the gardener who wants to cultivate seedlings for spring planting, to sophisticated irrigation systems, aeroponic cloners and high-powered growlights. Cost for a 12-plant hydroponics system will run about $1,000, Grubbs said. Clinton said he doesn’t grow marijuana and that’s not his interest. “We try to separate ourselves from that, somewhat because of the fact that it is not 100 percent legal, “ he said. But in fact, the proliferation of hydroponics vendors is a trend, according to Don DeVries, former owner of A-Town Deli in Downtown Auburn. DeVries sold the eatery recently to focus fulltime on constructing indoor grow rooms. “I’ve been building stuff all my life,” he said. “I saw all the hydroponics companies coming into town. They had all the products but no one had a complete room.” He readily acknowledges his customers are purchasing the rooms to grow pot. “Lots of people are growing their own marijuana,” he said. “They don’t want to rely on dealing with the wrong element and not knowing what they’re consuming. They know if they’ve grown it, it is safe.” DeVries’ company, ProGro, handles only construction. “We don’t want to distribute the product,” he said. “We want to build the means to do what (customers) want to do.” DeVries said he provides a safe and sanitary way to cultivate indoors. “People are using tents and lights that aren’t functional,” he said. “It’s a problem that scared me. I saw people’s rooms and the electrical was unsafe. (My company’s products) are UL approved.” He plans to have a booth showcasing his new busineses at the upcoming cannabis festival at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. “We had a 70-year-old man look at our room,” DeVries said. “(His comment was) ‘The only ones who got rich during the Gold Rush sold the picks and shovels.’” According to Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn, the state health and safety code makes it legal under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) for qualified caregivers and patients with a medical grow card to cultivate marijuana. “The limit has been possession of no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana per patient or six mature or 12 immature plants per qualified patient or caregiver,” he said. Those boundaries are in flux, however, following the People vs. Kelly state Supreme Court decision in February that basically says the actual amount that was originally intended (in the law) is not necessarily the true amount. “(The ruling) gives people the ability to possess more as long as they have an accurate and valid medical marijuana card,” Ruffcorn said. The Auburn Police Department won’t be paying extra attention to High Street Hydro unless the situation warrants. “Our point is, if it passed all the city codes and gets all the city permits and they’re not selling anything illegal, we’d support any business,” he said. “If it becomes a business that attracts criminal activity, it will rise on our radar screen. But if they are abiding by all state and federal laws, they would be of the same concern to us as any other business.” At High Street Hydro Tuesday, a customer said he came into the store because he spotted the growlight in the window. While he offered a comment, he refused to give his name. “It allows you to start a garden early instead of relying on the short growing season in the hills,” he said. Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.