On Ina Road, between Silverbell Road and Interstate 10 sits a small clinic, surrounded by a large fence with minimal signage. Patrons are required to buzz in for access.
Inside, it's minimalistic. There is a window with a reception desk behind it and a waiting area, complete with refreshments.
Also inside is an earthy, almost flowery, yet distinctive smell. At only a month old, Nature Med Inc. is Marana's first and only medical-marijuana dispensary.
Owner Mike Schmidt and his son Jacob, the general manager, began the process of opening the clinic about two years ago.
The Schmidts expressed a desire to shatter the stigma behind cannabis and said Nature Med Inc.'s mission is to provide a safe and professional environment where patients, and nonpatients, can find an alternative for stabilizing and treating pain.
Jacob Schmidt said he and his father always had the idea of going into business together.
"We were also going to do health care, home health care," he said. "Then the opportunity to get into this came up, so we went that route instead."
Jacob Schmidt's interest in medical marijuana started when he was suffering from chronic back pain from scoliosis. He was prescribed painkillers, but they made him angry and irritable. He decided to try a more natural route and was able to get his medical-marijuana card.
"I tried it at first in edible form," he said. "I loved it. It relaxed the muscles, and I learned how to dose it for the edibles, and I took half a dose, and it really allowed me to feel normal, without pain."
One of the reasons Mike Schmidt picked the Marana area was the number of resident suffering from cancer.
The state determines where dispensaries can be opened by using the Community Health Analysis Area data collected by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Mike Schmidt has been a registered nurse for more than 25 years, and he's always had an interest in natural medicine.
One of his first jobs was a health educator on Indian reservations in South Dakota. There he learned about medicinal herbs.
He moved to Arizona and worked at University of Arizona Medical Center for seven years before moving to Santa Cruz County to work as a mental-health nurse. He later became the diabetes coordinator for the Tohono O'odham Nation.
When he's not taking care of the clinic, Jacob likes to study cannabis and its properties.
In 2010, Proposition 203 was passed in Arizona. The law allows residents to use cannabis for medicinal reasons.
Since then, the state has approved 14 conditions for which medical marijuana can be purchased.
"It's always been a medication, and that's my stance today, that it's a very effective medication. It's holistic. It's natural," Mike Schmidt said. "I don't believe it should be legalized. … I think it should be treated as a medicine, which it is."
Nature Med Inc. carries two plant types: cannabis indica and cannabis sativa, as well as hybrids, and sells 12 different strains.
Those seeking a medical-marijuana card must prove their need to a physician. If they are approved, patients will receive a certificate, which is then sent to the Department of Health Services.
Every other Thursday, Mike Schmidt rents his office out as a consultation room for a doctor who can help patients apply for a medical-marijuana card.
Nature Med Inc.'s cannabis is bought from other dispensaries. Mike Schmidt said it is "tracked from the seed to the final product. It's natural. There are no pesticides."
He also hopes to start a cultivation site in the next few months.
"We're all trying to work together with this, providing medication for people in a safe and highly effective manner," he said.
"I get to interact with patients and meet people and share stories," Mike Schmidt said. "It's just nice to be able to help people in a different way."
Lynley Price is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or at firstname.lastname@example.org