Kevin Reed is one part entrepreneur and two parts community activist, blending the two roles together seamlessly to run his non-profit organization “The Green Cross”.
Founded in 2004, The Green Cross provides a neighborhood service to San Francisco that is unlike any you’ll see across most of the rest of the United States. The group delivers medical marijuana supplies to clients, all of whom are required to have valid, current doctor’s recommendations in addition to the state card.
“We require that patients provide us with a copy of their recommendation and we verify each recommendation with the physician,” Reed said. “We also provide direct-to-patient access; we do not
provide access to primary caregivers. And, we will not serve patients with expired recommendations — no excuses or exceptions.”
Reed took the same path to success that many start-ups take: he identified a community need and then worked his tail off providing services for that need, but with a twist. Reed was not only a businessman and community activist; he was also a patient in need of the very services he would come to offer to the community as a whole.
“Shortly after relocating to the Bay Area from Alabama to pursue alternative treatments for extremely severe and chronic back pain I suffer as a result of a serious car accident, my physician provided me a recommendation to use marijuana. There were a few dispensaries around the city and no regulations at the time,” Reed said.
“After some time, I started to cultivate my own cannabis and use the extra product to prepare baked goods to provide at the collectives with which I had established memberships. Once I began and providing those baked goods to various collectives, I didn’t see the model for which I had a vision.”
Reed filled that void in 2004, opening up a small storefront in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The group started out with five employees, all but one of whom still work with the group, Reed said. Since 2004, the services the group offered have changed dramatically, particularly as the political and cultural winds have shifted.
“At the time, there were no local regulations. There were no city permits or rules. Although we did register with the state, acquire a sellers permit, and a business license there was no law that said we had the right to exist. As The Green Cross became among the most successful collectives in the city, our neighbors began to complain about the traffic and parking issues caused by our facility,” Reed said.
As fate would have it, that time frame is right when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors began thinking about designing some regulations to formally permit medical cannabis dispensaries.
“We were very involved in the legislation and implementation process, but despite our best efforts we lost our Noe Valley location. After finding a secondary location adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf we started the permitting process, but neighborhood opposition forced us to reconsider,” he said.
“In 2008, The Green Cross received San Francisco’s first Medical Cannabis Dispensary permit with the stipulation that we operate as a ‘delivery-only’ service. So, in a matter of three short years we changed our business model to conform with new regulations and from a storefront operation to a delivery-only service,” Reed said.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the non-profit nature of the business.
“We are truly a community-based organization and we love what we have been able to do for our community,” Reed said.
“Our goal is not to make profit, but rather to serve and protect our patient-members. In the most basic sense it requires that all monies beyond the cost of operation be redistributed. In the broadest sense, the non-profit model fosters a communal and cooperative structure which demands we serve our patients and provide a benefit to the general public.”
“The non-profit operation is a condition of our state law, and we are content with the non-profit stipulation. In fact, I wish this model would have extended into other states if for no other reason than to center operations on patient service rather than building an industry,” Reed added.
The Green Cross is thinking about expanding within the San Francisco area, but has no plans to become a nationwide organization. They’re even thinking about adding a new storefront location, as the attitudes
toward storefronts have changed since the last time they had one. The storefront would not replace their famous patient-first delivery service, but would rather “extend the availability of our products and services to our members who prefer in-person visits to a facility,” Reed said.
While the group has no plans to expand nationwide, Reed does see in his group a model that could be copied and expanded upon, were the federal government ever to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
“In the event federal law changes, I hope that entrepreneurs would employ similar principles and practices into their own model,” he said.
One group that has been in the news lately, making a little noise about jumping into the medical marijuana field is large pharmaceutical companies. Reed is not terribly concerned with how his organization would be affected by big pharma joining the marijuana business.
“…I don’t think our collective would be negatively affected. Most of the patients we serve are individuals who don’t have access to health insurance and thus can’t afford prescription drugs, or patients who prefer using the plant as a complementary or alternative medicine,” Reed said.
“Marinol and Cesament are cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical products already available by prescription, but few patients choose the pill if they have safe and legal access to the plant. It’s unlikely that adding a few more pill options to that scenario would affect our patients enough to change their preference for the botanical.”
Find The Green Cross online at www.thegreencross.org.