Medical Marijuana Dispenser

As president of the Buds & Roses Collective, Aaron Justis is living the pipe dream

Photograph by Christina Gandolfo

➻ “I want to make dispensaries a normal retail experience with a spa-like feeling—not a typical stoner place.”

➻ Justis, 36, is the president of the Buds & Roses Collective, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. It opened in 2007 and recently relocated to Studio City.

➻ “Since I was about 19, I’ve been a drug-law-reform activist. I’ve never used hard drugs, and I didn’t really see the harm in using cannabis, but I saw a lot of harm associated with the enforcement of laws for cannabis users.”

➻ A dispensary is usually a storefront facility that offers marijuana in various forms (buds, tincture, cookies) through a collective. Those who wish to become a member need a doctor’s prescription. Buds & Roses, like all 134 legal L.A.-area dispensaries, is categorized as a nonprofit.

➻ “Our patients are an older crowd, between 30 and 50 years old, who live in the area. We try to lead them in the right direction, be it [cannabis for treating] back pain or stage IV cancer.”

➻ Justis says his clientele often turns to Buds & Roses cannabis as an alternative to antidepressants and other mood-stabilizing drugs.

➻ “Our medicine is probably of higher quality than patients are used to. Wait 10 or 15 minutes before you decide you want more. People get too eager and overindulge right away.”

➻ Justis and his team came up with an award-winning cultivation method known as Veganics: Plants are grown without animal-based fertilizers such as bat guano.

➻ “I know which cannabis to use and when, and that changes throughout the day. I’ll smoke sativa in the morning, which works like coffee. If I want to sleep or relax, I’ll have indica, which is usually an edible.”

➻ California dispensaries are regulated by county. The use of pot is still illegal under federal law.

➻ “I follow Colorado closely. L.A. is the largest market with no statewide regulations—it’s the Wild West. With legalization here, it’s not a matter of when but how. ”