IRVING PARK — An Irving Park business has become one of the United States’ first physical stores selling cannabis seeds and offering genetic testing for plants for people who want to grow weed at home for medicinal use.
Tom Wilson and Dan Aynessazian opened MoneyTree Genetics, 4017 W. Irving Park Road, in November. The store is a one-stop shop for people who want to buy weed seeds, get their plants tested and learn about growing cannabis at home.
The genetic testing allows people to see how potent their plant is and to learn about its cannabinoid and terpene profiles, Wilson said. It can also help with identifying harmful plant diseases and parasites, so people can understand why their plant is sick, he siad.
“Genetic testing also adds some authenticity to folks who shop at dispensaries and read their packaging who want to confirm if they actually got what they paid for,” Wilson said.
That’s another key part of the business: helping people actually grow healthy cannabis plants.
Sourcing the business’s seeds from breeders and cultivators with detailed genetic documentation helps prevent pathogens and pests from being introduced to home gardens or major cultivation centers in the Midwest, Wilson said.
“That way we’re not infecting markets in the cannabis world from one region to another,” Wilson said.
The owners also help customers learn about how to grow cannabis and how to navigate state laws “to educate them about what they can do with a medical card and what they can’t,” Wilson said.
Aynessazian and Wilson got into the seed business after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration loosened its rules around selling cannabis seeds last year.
While the business might be new — it’s only in recent years that Illinois has allowed medical cannabis patients to grow up to five plants for personal use under certain conditions — Wilson’s love for growing plants goes back years.
Wilson grew up in Irving Park and developed a reputation for having a green thumb, he said. He’d bring all kinds of plants back from the brink of death for his family and friends, he said.
“Gardening has always been in my blood,” he said.
Wilson started picking up tips from High Times magazine on how to grow cannabis. He moved to California to hone his skills and helped run a cannabis farm, Wilson said.
Cannabis varieties have different potency levels, effects and yields, as well as various aromas and tastes, Wilson said.
“It’s very similar to wine, which is another industry I fell in love with while living in California. The two really are almost identical as far as different flavor profiles, regions and notes characteristics,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely side by side.”
Since the shop opened, Wilson has enjoyed in-depth conversations with customers about flowering times, ideal growing conditions and whether a seed strain is resistant to certain environmental challenges like too much humidity or cold, he said.
Some customers are already pretty knowledgeable and know exactly what they want, but others are often are growing cannabis at home for the first time, Wilson said.
“I think the oldest person we’ve had come in was an 82-year-old woman to buy seeds she planned to put in flowerpots on her retirement home’s balcony this spring,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t even expecting that. I didn’t think people would consider growing on their balconies in their retirement homes. But here we are.”
The interior of the shop features cannabis culture-themed art and photos from various artists, some of which is for sale.
As that artwork is sold or retired, the owners want to work with local artists to showcase and sell their art on consignment, Wilson said.
“We wanted the interior to feel unique in its own way and maybe even resemble more of like an Amsterdam seed shop, which is where the first model of this type of business ever started,” Wilson said. “We curated all the art ourselves from multiple suppliers and artists, to create stuff and bring us stuff. It’s all cannabis-themed. We’ve also been collecting, for many years, memorabilia.”
The shop is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sundays.
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