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Sonoma County’s Mercy Wellness free medical cannabis program a team effort with Mendocino County grower, Oakland distributor

Mercy Wellness is teaming up with an East Bay cannabis producer and Mendocino County grower in doling out free medicinal marijuana.

Under the “Compassion Donation” program, the dispensary company started giving away free cannabis last June at its Cotati location and three months later at its Santa Rosa retail outlet, which opened last May. Since mid-2021, the dispensary has donated about $50,000 worth of cannabis product.

The concept behind the compassion program came about from California Senate Bill 34, named the Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act. It allows licensed retailers to provide free cannabis to medicinal patients or their primary caregivers, upon meeting specified requirements.

The bill authorizes those licensees to contract with a sanctioned “individual or organization to coordinate the provision of free medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products on the retailer’s premises,” the bill’s language reads. The bill, signed into law in October 2019, expires in five years.

“The whole effort was centered on compassion,” Mercy Wellness Director of Procurement Joe Sullivan told the Business Journal. “And the compassion program is a way to give back.”

SB 34 pays homage to two leading advocates in the movement to legalize marijuana in California. Peron, who died in January 2018, served on the front lines of getting Proposition 215 passed in 1996, which made marijuana sales to medicinal patients legal. Mary Jane Rathbun was nicknamed “Brownie Mary” for delivering marijuana in brownies to patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome while she worked as a volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital. Medicinal marijuana is known to help with pain relief.

The spirit of giving back to the community has lived on with Mercy Wellness decades later.

“We wanted to support companies that support their communities,” Sullivan said.

The team at Mercy Wellness was inspired to take part in the effort “because it’s the right thing to do,” spokesman Chris Myers told the Business Journal. In turn, those patients become loyal customers.

Mercy Wellness has partnered with grower Swami Select in Laytonville to offer pre-packaged flower, pre-rolls and oils to medicinal patients, but “allocations vary,” said Jen Seo, spokeswoman for Nabis, an Oakland distributor with 150 brands. The partners worked with Dear Cannabis, a Sacramento-based cannabis network.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com.

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