Colorados Lotus Medical

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For the latest installment of Green State Feature, The Austin420 recently caught up with the owner of Lotus Medical, a pair of medical cannabis wellness centers in the state of Colorado, just one of sixteen states that have passed medical cannabis into law. While Lotus Medical (Denver & Boulder, CO.) has often been described as “spa-like” and “healing”, owner Erik Santus and family, have put together a very comfortable, normal, and professional place, where professionals, younger adults and older adults, and virtually anyone are welcome to come in. Opening its doors in October 2009, amid an explosion of another 50 to 60 places, Lotus Medical first developed its overall vision by personal experience. My wife Shawna and her mom Vicki put together the overall feel and vision of both stores: the furniture, the photography, stuff like that. The girls, especially, really wanted it to be a place where single women could come in, whether they were 25 or 75, to ask questions and consult with us. My wife and I, had visited so many places before, where she just wouldn’t have felt comfortable going back by herself, so we decided to open up a place. At the same time, my mom was going through some cancer treatments, using medical cannabis as a replacement for a lot of the anti-nausea and sickness drugs that they were giving her, there’s like 5 or 6 to help with chemotherapy and radiation depending on what it is. So instead of taking all those pills which made her feel really weird, she would smoke or take a little edible and it kind of did the job of all those, making her feel in more normal of a mood.”

Colorado, in the laws of the state, is the only state in the United States and the only place in the world that recognizes the commercial growing of cannabis. “Nobody else really recognizes that.” Erik stated as I asked him about the differences between Colorado law and other medical cannabis states. “In the other states, you can get your card and grow some plants, but they don’t recognize the commercial growing on that level either, they left that out of the law and dispensaries just popped up. So, Colorado has a real good hold & structure on the growing of medical cannabis for the patients and everything in between. I think that really is a basis for the long term growth of the business. It’s set up more as a business here and that’s why the Department of Revenue controls all this, than it is in other states where it’s tough to say how long you’re going to be around the threat of local and federal government.”

While Lotus Medical offers just on a consulting basis, always welcome and open to speak about the industry, cannabis in general, getting your medical marijuana card, referring people to doctors and so on, they have come to understand that there still are a lot of people out there who are new to medical cannabis, people who just don’t understand, people who are simply scared. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing we do is offer that consulting. Obviously, we offer a lot of high quality products, edibles, and concentrates, hashes, flowers and stuff like that. We also have massages and Reiki instruction for the patients as well. The average age of our folks is probably like 30 to 45, 30 to 50, something like that. We do have some younger people that are in their 20s and we have some older folks too. We have a lot of people getting off opiate pain medication. They have a chronic pain situation, where something is wrong or broken and they have to take a pill to get rid of the pain or dull it down and they just get so addicted that they have to take so many, that after awhile they end up OD-ing, or it’s bad for their liver. A lot of the hash tootsie rolls we have called “Cheeba Chews” are highly concentrated with hash oil which really helps with a lot of the pain.”

“We’ve had nothing but good relationships with everything from police to lawmakers on the local and state level, lobbyists, to just any department that we’ve ever had to deal with.” responded Erik as I asked about the overall public acceptance of medical cannabis in Colorado. “I think everybody has been very respectable. What’s happened in the last 24 months, is a lot of the law enforcement went from angry (in the beginning) to relieved that this is something they don’t have to worry about and they can focus on more important things. That I think has been the biggest mental shift that I’ve seen over the last 24 months. Law enforcement was our biggest opponent in the beginning and I just don’t think that’s the case now. As the dust settled that was kind of the new way of thinking. That’s good for the business because it is a business. Frankly, the tax revenue and the fees that are collected on these businesses, is so amazingly huge that it’s replaced a huge chunk of the tax based revenue that was lost over the last 5 to 6 years. Local economies are starting to account for it down the road. They’re saying ‘Hey, in 2012, in 2013, here’s how we’re going to spend that medical cannabis tax money’ and when they say that kind of stuff, you have a good feeling that you’re going to be around for awhile and I think that’s why ‘the acceptance of the business’ is a little bit easier here because of that structure of revenue.”

In order for Medical Cannabis establishments to receive the respect of the community, they must be willing to give back to the community and Lotus Medical has been no exception, establishing a great repertoire among charitable organizations. “We do a lot of charity work.” explained Erik. “We have two charities (in our building) that we support. One is called Africade and the other one is called Net Results, which a young people’s tennis camp. We donate to a number of cancer foundations like Live-Strong and Breast Cancer. And then we do fundraisers like our 1st Annual Lotus Golf Tournament which was for a patient named Alyssa, a young lady who’s 26 and going through cancer. So we just try to support the local community; we’re part of the lower-downtown group, and so we support all of the historic buildings and the upkeep of those, and so we’re just trying to keep the neighborhood nice.”

The momentum behind the Medical Cannabis movement is crossing-over from state-to-state gaining a tremendous amount of people supporters every day, and though the journey is far from over, the support for Medical Cannabis legislation on a national level may be closer than what we think, maybe close enough to see in our own lifetimes. “In five years, I think it will be in more than half of the states. I think a lot of the states that have adopted laws over the last 2 or 3 years, and this year, are probably going to have some sort of cultivation and distribution system set up. So what I think you’ll see is an increased amount of taxes, fees, and revenue coming from these states that have Medical Cannabis. Hopefully, the states will be able to use it like Colorado does, to fill in the gaps where they have budget shortfalls because of the economy, the recession, and not having real estate taxes flowing.”

Having a compassionate connection with patients is extremely important because it shows that one understands the needs of the patient; it’s a relationship built on trust. Plus patients want to feel safe and welcome. They want to feel that what they are doing is normal and just a necessary part in tending and alleviating their pains. It’s these relationships that will inevitably build and lay down the foundation of what the future of medical cannabis & compassionate care will be, maybe not just in Colorado, but one day, throughout the country. “It’s awesome to have a really good connection with the folks that come in, and we have an enjoyable time being here and I think it shows. I think the feel of the place is extremely important. It’s extremely warm, inviting, and normal. It’s a normal place. We have a normal transaction when we do things with people. It’s not strange. You don’t feel like you’re buying drugs. It’s how it should be. I think that ‘normalcy’ is what attracts people and also what keeps our customers coming back.” ~