"I offered to sell my quad for $4000," remembers Joey of his treasured toy. "We ordered the equipment and the seeds and I told Mary she didn't have to do anything. But then I called her in to help with nutrients." He then adds, with a smile, "She was good in the kitchen and knew about measurement stuff."
Since then, Mary and Joey have been partners in life and business. She tends to their gardens and he tends to the construction and design of their indoor grow house.
Now, the enterprise they started in desperation is putting two kids through college, employs nine people, and gives marijuana butter to the sick who can't afford pharmaceuticals or the black market.
I ask Peter and Mary if they've seen the show Weeds. "My mom wouldn't tolerate half the stuff the kids put the mom through on the show," laughs Peter. "She would never let me sell. She sells so I don't have to. She pays for me to go to school."
Weeds, adds Mary, is "very far-fetched. The premise started out great, but most growers don't sleep with people to get clients — Hollywood ruined it."
Mary leads us into the kitchen, where the air reeks with the stench of potent cannabis. She has brought down a large, nasty-smelling crock-pot — bubbling with black gooeyness — from an upstairs room and placed it on the counter. It's marijuana butter (which contains the extracted, powerful cannabinoids from the plant matter). She'll let it simmer for another 12 hours before straining out the plant matter and pouring it into pans. The butter is then cooled and refrigerated so it becomes solid (think how hard very cold butter is). She then packs it up and sends it out — Joey and Mary's gift to those suffering from debilitating illness and chronic pain.
Pharmaceutical companies, Mary points out competitively, "don't give their drugs away."
"There are medications that you need," she acknowledges. "Joey needs his insulin. I'm not opposed to medicine. I am opposed to the misuse and over-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepine. It's when you're handed a prescription for 180 morphines a month and you're told by your doctor to take them, and at the end of three months, you're a drug addict.
"I'm sitting here hiding because I give people a safer alternative — and the government says it's wrong. We're on the front lines of this movement."
Opioids, says Mary, "turn you into a robot. You don't feel joy. All you know is to take a pill so you don't get sick. We've got a lot of doctors abusing the privilege of pain meds."
Walter, one of Mary's first medical beneficiaries, agrees. He is an artist, and is battling HIV.
"Increasingly, marijuana was hard to get," he explains. Financially, Walter simply couldn't afford it, and he didn't want to be put in a dangerous situation trying to obtain it (such as going to a rough neighborhood and buying it off the street).
Walter was introduced to Mary, and she began giving him the marijuana butter.
"The benefit is it gets you out of your funk," Walter explains. "You can get through the things that otherwise you just can't. Simple things, like cleaning your room or doing your laundry.