I don’t do a lot of articles on medical marijuana dispensaries anymore. Not because they aren’t interesting or don’t have valid stories to tell, but because it gets so repetitive—they all have edibles, they all have BHO or hash or both, and they all have flowers to smoke. But this week I am bringing you inside a special dispensary in North Hollywood, California, called Progressive Options. What makes them special is they don’t distribute any of the products mentioned above. They cater to the patient/grower, and all they sell is genetics in the form of clones plants and seeds to fill a garden.

I have been a member of Progressive Options for years and they are a very reputable source of proven genetics from respected growers with exclusive strains. I got in touch with Howie and Z, the owners/founders of Progressive Options, to get a look inside their operation and find out how they differ from all the other dispensaries in the state, and even most of the country.

How is your dispensary different from others? Do you sell smokables or just plants?
We like to refer to ourselves as a preservation dispensary. We provide growers with accurately labeled strains in the form of clones and seeds, and eventually we will provide tissue cultures as well. We are also starting to stock-grow equipment so we can be a one-stop shop for all the growers’ needs. We are also a great source of growing advice for any problems that may arise in the course of the grow.

You guys have been around for quite some time, talk to me about how PO started and how you got the idea for it?
We started to provide the medical marijuana community with genetic needs. We had been going to dispensaries ourselves before [Progressive Options] started and bought clones from reputable places and grew them and realized what we bought was not what it was labeled. This happened a lot and we realized if this happened to us, imagine how many other patients visited these same dispensaries and bought bogus labeled clones and grew them thinking the plants would provide relief for specific ailments, only to realize after months of growing that what they thought they had wasn’t that at all.

And then, who are you going to complain to? No one can really be held responsible. The dispensary can blame the grower provider (if you can even find them), and then they will just say the dispensary mislabeled them and no one wins. The patient loses the most because he wasted time and money chasing a dream that was never true to begin with. There was simply no source other than seeds companies (which came with legal risks) to get genetics you could really believe in. So by opening Progressive Options we have created a legitimate market and resource for grower patients by providing genuine proven genetics that we have tested before bringing them to the market.

How bad was the mislabeling when you started?
First of all, it’s important to note that things have changed drastically since 2007 when we started, but back then from our experiences trying to collect strains even from reputable sources, at least 60 percent of what we got were not what they said. It was really bad back then, things are a lot better now and keep getting even better.

Why?
Lots of reasons. Growers sometimes don’t know what they have. A lot of growers who are not educated about strains don’t know how to correctly identify them. Also with the rarer strains a lot of growers try to horde them and try to keep them from getting out, which is really impossible to do. Eventually everything gets out, eventually a seed makes its way to a batch and then into a patient’s hand who grows it and then it’s out.

So do you keep getting new strains or do you regrow moms and sell the cuts from the moms?
It’s extremely hard to trust providers, so we try to track down strains ourselves, then we get cuttings of them to verify it’s what we thought we tracked down. Then once we prove they are correct, we create mother plants from them and put them in our “library” of mothers. Then awe reate our own cuttings and clones from these mothers who we know are legitimate because we grew them ourselves. Then we offer them to our patient members.

How many strains exist in that library?
About 80, currently.

How do the clones come?
They come in one-inch rockwool cubes, which can then be dropped into any medium—from soil, to rockwool, to cocoa fibers.

Are you a resource for growing advice, or just sales? 
Our goal is to be a hub for the whole growing community and to be able to give advice based on our experiences and the experiences of our members to help other members end up with the best final product.

What are the most common problems for beginner growers?

Using the correct pH to feed your plants. A lot of new growers don’t pay as much attention to this as needed and they end up with a plant that starts to wilt and die. They don’t realize its all about the pH of the water they are feeding that plant.

Other common problems are over fertilizing and bugs, which is a major issue in Southern California.

How do you maintain clean plants in here? We have a really strict quarantine procedure in effect for new mothers that come into our environment. We also keep the mother library in an offsite location so that members can’t come in and accidentally bring bugs or any foreign contaminant with them.

What are some of your most popular clones? Dogs and Girl Scout Cookies are currently the most popular; then we still see a lot of interest in the Chems and Diesels as well.

Also we are building up our library of CBD strains. They are fast becoming a sector of enormous interest in the community for the medicinal benefits for patients in search of relief for a variety of symptoms.

What are your plans for the future? We are working on creating an in-house testing facility so we can more accurately provide all the info about all our strains and be able to give our patients access to reliable tests. We also eventually plan on expanding our locations to more states.

Photos via Progressive Options Instagram

Brian Kaiser is Philly, born and raised. After attending Temple University he moved to California where he works and consults in the burgeoning marijuana industry. Kaiser currently pushes for cannabis legalization on both a state and national level, a process that begins with sharing information.