Working podcast transcript: What’s it like to run a medical marijuana dispensary, Takoma Wellness Center, in Washington, D.C.?

Read About What It’s Like to Be a Rabbi Running a Marijuana Dispensary in D.C.

Read About What It’s Like to Be a Rabbi Running a Marijuana Dispensary in D.C.

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March 3 2016 1:15 PM

Cannabis With a Side of Scripture

The owners of a D.C. dispensary discuss their dreams of selling pot to make their parents proud.

Stephanie and Jeffrey Kahn
Stephanie and Jeffrey Kahn.

Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Kahn.

We’re posting transcripts of Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day, exclusively for Slate Plus members. What follows is the transcript for Season 5, Episode 11.

In this episode of Working, Slate’s Rachel E. Gross talks to Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and his wife, Stephanie, about the medical marijuana dispensary they own and operate in Washington, D.C., called Takoma Wellness Center. Their center was one of the first cannabis dispensaries in the district. But how did the mom-and-pop pot shop take root in D.C.’s initially unfriendly soil? Read the story from sprout to finish. Plus find out what’s it like for Rabbi Jeffrey to dispense weed and wisdom side by side in our Slate Plus bonus segment exclusively for members.

To learn more about Slate’s Working podcast, click here.

This is a lightly edited transcript and may differ slightly from the edited podcast.

Rachel Gross: Welcome to Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day. I’m Rachel Gross, a writer for Slate who covers science and food. For this week’s episode of Working, we’re talking with Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and his wife, Stephanie, a former hospital administrator. Together, they have become experts at navigating the murky world of Washington, D.C.’s weed laws as the owners of Takoma Wellness Center, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in the district. And in a Slate Plus extra, Jeff talks about what it’s like to be an ordained rabbi who now dispenses weed as well as wisdom.

For the uninitiated, D.C. residents have been cool with medical marijuana since 1998. But due to a series of unfortunate legal hurdles, the first dispensary didn’t open its doors until 2013. We’re not even going to get into the laws for recreational weed, because that’s enough for its own podcast.

What is your name and what do you do?

Jeffrey Kahn: My name is Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, and along with my wife and family, I own and operate Takoma Wellness Center, one of Washington, D.C.’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

Rachel: Can you explain a little more about what the Takoma Wellness Center is?

Jeffrey: Sure. It is a medical marijuana dispensary that’s part of the regulated D.C. medical marijuana program. We serve 1,000 patients. We see about 100 people a day. After they’ve gotten a recommendation from their physician and been registered with the Department of Health, this is where they come to purchase their medicine.

Rachel: And so, you said you run the dispensary with your wife, Stephanie. So, can both you talk a little bit about a day in the life of running a pot dispensary in D.C.?

Jeffrey: Absolutely. Well, you know, we start off the day by walking to work. When we decided to open the dispensary, the first thing we did was walk around the block and see if there was a place that would be around the corner. And so, we live a half a block away. So, we walk to work. Which is really different from anything we’ve ever done before in our lives.

And once we get here, we open the gate, and then open the door, turn off the alarms, turn on the lights everywhere, and get ready for our staff who will be arriving in the next couple of minutes. We have three safes that we have to open. And then sort of like a jewelry store, everything that’s on display in the dispensary is put away in a safe at night, and all of it has to be taken out in the morning and put back on display.

So, we kind of open up so that the rest of the staff can come and get ready for the day. And that’s the beginning of what we do.

Rachel: And what time does the store open?

Jeffrey: We open most days at one o’clock. And on Fridays, we open at 11:30 because we close early.

Rachel: So, how do you two divide up the duties throughout the day?

Stephanie:  We have really different responsibilities. I work with the patients more. I do all the scheduling, because we have an orientation for our new patients their very first visit.

I sell, and educate, and explain. And I also do a lot of outreach with patients and talk to them on the phone and explain about who we are. And I kind of fill in whatever needs to be done. Except for, I really do not prepare the medicine.

Rachel: You said it opens at 1 p.m. And you’ve taken everything out of the safe and put it on display. So, is the next step to prepare?

Jeffrey: It is. And so, as Stephanie said, that’s one of my important two jobs, the other one being kind of running the business and keeping us up with best practices, and working with our regulators in the government and the crazy laws that we have to deal with in order to be able to even have a cannabis dispensary. But besides that, I have a very focused job as well packaging medicine. And so, we prepare for the day by prepackaging certain amounts of each strain in anticipation of what we think patients will buy during the day, because we don’t like to prepackage more than we’ll for a very short period of time.

And that sort of gives us a head start for the day. Because when we open, we’ll see oftentimes 30 patients in the first hour with complicated orders to fill. So, it’s good that we have a little bit of a head start. And then throughout the day we’re filling orders. We see a lot of people and we carry a lot of strains and a number of concentrates. And an important part of my job ends up being taking large bags of cannabis and changing them into smaller bags of cannabis.

Rachel: And what else does preparing them entail? Do you have to keep them fresh in some way?

Jeffrey: Well, we have to be very careful that they’re handle as little as possible. So, first of all, this is a delicate dried plant. And people want it in the condition that it was dried in. And so, not to be crushed or handled poorly in any way. So, we’re very careful in how we handle it and try and keep handling to a minimum.

And then we keep it very, very fresh. So, it’s all sealed in special containers and then given the light of day and fresh air very rarely. We keep it very fresh and in top shape.

Rachel: So, you spend a lot of time preparing the medical marijuana, and patients are coming in. What does the bulk of your day consist of?

Jeffrey: Well, you know, it depends. And so, if I’m here in the dispensary, and probably at least half the time, if not more than half the time, that’s what I’m doing all day.

At seven o’clock when we close, then we take all the medicine, we gather it all together, put it back in the safe. It takes us a few hours in the morning to get ready, but we try and do it in less than an hour when we’re closing. And we’re all out of here by eight o’clock. And with the security guard, we lock everything up and won’t be back until the next morning.

Rachel: And what’s the very last thing you do with your day?

Jeffrey: The very last thing is that we turn on the alarm and we close the doors and lock them, and close the gate and lock it. And we all say it was a great day and walk away.

Rachel: And why do you put all of the medical marijuana in a safe and have a security guard?

Jeffrey: Well, it’s in the safe by law. But I think if it wasn’t required by law, it would still be in the safe, just for security and safety’s sake.

And also because our insurance company requires it as well. We’re dealing in an item that has value and that people have been known in history to steal. So, we certainly take precautions to make sure that they don’t. We have a lot of security precautions that we’re required to take. We have cameras everywhere. Everything is being recorded all of the time. We’re inspected monthly by the Department of Health and the Metropolitan Police Department. And when they come, they review the tapes.

So, they’ll pick out deliveries and purchases from the past month, and they’ll want to take a look at what went on. So, they don’t sit there and watch us as we’re talking casually now. But if for some reason they picked this date and this time to look at the tapes, then they might see this interview and ask us what it was all about. And so, that kind of security is required. We also have a security guard. They’re all retired Metropolitan Police officers.

And our doors are always locked. So, when a patient comes to the front door, they ring and they have to produce their medical marijuana card and their picture ID. And with that, the security guard at the door allows them access to the dispensary. Could be half the time the people ringing the doorbell are not patients, but people who would like to be patients, or tourists, or visitors from overseas. But this is a program for residents only.

Rachel: So, I notice at the Takoma Wellness there’s not a lot of pot paraphernalia and like, reefer stuff. It’s very simple and classic. Can you talk a little about that design choice?

Stephanie:  Sure. Our goal was to put together a dispensary that my parents would have felt comfortable going to. And we wanted to make it so that people who normally would not feel comfortable going into a dispensary, which are a lot of people—and there’s still a stigma.

And we wanted them to feel comfortable. So, we don’t have any counter culture. I guess that’s an old term: a counter culture. No paraphernalia. We do sell vaporizers, and papers, and pipes, and everything in the actual dispensary. But we decided to have a whole different model for design.

And the hamsa—I have collected hamsas for about 30 years. I love hamsas. It’s a symbol of a hand. And it can be right-side up or upside down. There’s lots of artists’ renditions. Some of them have fish in them. Some of them have pomegranates. I’m looking at them. Some of them have flowers. And there’s often an eye in the middle. And that is to keep out the evil eye. The hamsa is a sign of protection, and healing, and unity, and health, and well-being.

So, it just seemed to fit perfectly. So, that’s our symbol, and we are very attached to it.

Rachel: How did you get started wanting to open a pot dispensary?

Stephanie: I was born in Takoma Park. And certainly my parents grew up around here. My father grew up a couple blocks away. But when I was young, he was diagnosed with MS. And he had been ill for quite a long time before that. And he tried so many different things.

He traveled all over. Snake venom, all kinds of strange things, because none of the pharmaceuticals they had would help. And in the ’70s, one of his doctors suggested he try marijuana, and he was horrified. He had a teenage daughter. It was the early ’70s. He did not want to do this. But he eventually did, and it made a huge difference. We all saw it. It really helped his muscle spasms and his nerve pain. And I essentially grew up from then on seeing the benefits, and seeing how scared they were [at first].

My parents were very straight-laced, law-abiding people, but they saw that it really helped. And over the years, eventually my kids did too. And we didn’t tell them right away, and then they found out. And they saw how much it helped.

Jeffrey: So, we were believers for a long time, from way back. My kids, my sons and my daughter-in-law, who are involved in the business, grew up with a grandfather who used cannabis for health.

Rachel: Was there a particular moment when you decided, yes, this is the way I can contribute, this is what I want to do is open a dispensary?

Jeffrey: Yeah, probably. I went to the hearing, the D.C. Council hearing, in February of 2010, when they first considered the law that would become the Medical Marijuana Act of 2010. And when I came home, I met with my wife and then we called a family meeting.

Stephanie:  My husband suggested we open a medical marijuana dispensary. And we all just stared at him like, what are you talking about? And then when he said, you know, the law has changed. We could do this right. We could open a place that your parents should have been able to go to. And that just resonated with all of us. And that just changed everything.

 So, that’s how we got into it. We have their picture, their honeymoon picture, up, and we have their story up. And I know that they’d be hysterical, because they said he couldn’t believe this is what we’re doing. But they’d be really happy.

Rachel: So, what went into that application process with the city?

Jeffrey: Well, we had to prove to them that we knew everything about medical cannabis. But more importantly than that, that we could succeed at business, that we had a location that would be zoned properly and acceptable to the neighbors. And that we were people of good repute. And we had to pass background examinations and things like that.

Rachel: Did they make you take a drug test?

Jeffrey: They didn’t. They didn’t make us take a drug test. But they did check to see that we have no drug convictions. We then had to actually show that we could do at least everything that we said that we could do in anticipation of opening. So, we had to have this property when we applied. So, from early in 2011, we had been renting this site.

And then we had to turn it into the floor plan that we proposed. We had to install all the security. We had to do everything that we said we were going to do. And then all the parties from the health department, and DCRA, and the police department came for a full day inspection. And we had to show them how we would do everything and that everything was here. And then we were approved to be able to open. And then, you know, in every state and jurisdiction it’s worked differently.

And one of the things that they did differently here is that they didn’t begin registering patients until our dispensary was registered. So, then they first began registering patients. And then we first began to find out what the market would be. In our first week, we got three patients. And by the end of the first year, only 75. So, it was a very long, slow process, and has continued to change and be made better. There were a lot of things that were flaws in the system that we’ve been able to change and others that we’re still working on.

Rachel: So, that’s a big leap of faith for a small-business owner, right? Not knowing your customers or your product.

Jeffrey: It definitely is a giant leap of faith. And all the extra hassles that come along with it because of legal problems makes the leap even bigger. On the other hand, the one thing that we knew for sure was the importance and quality of the product.

So, it wasn’t like we were putting something out there and then hoping other people would find that it was good. We knew that people were willing to break the law in order to be able to get this product. And if they could get it safely and legally, that would be even much better for them. So, we weren’t worried about that. But it’s still been a challenge connecting all the dots.

Rachel: Right. So, how did you end up finding your first cultivators then?

Jeffrey: Well, there was really only one cultivator that would have medicine ready when we opened. And we purchased a little bit from them. They had four strains. And I think we bought a pound altogether, a quarter pound of each. And that lasted months. And then eventually we got a little more from the two other cultivators. One of the reasons why cultivators didn’t open quickly is that they were limited to only growing 95 plants.

And that’s not a lot. One of the strange concepts in the marijuana world and in working with the government is that they constantly count plants. And the thing is, anybody who’s ever had a plant or seen a plant, not necessarily a cannabis plant but any plant, knows that there are small plants and there are large plants. And smaller plants have less of whatever it is they’re growing. So, just saying how many plants there are really is absurd.

We got the city to increase that from 95 to 500, and then to 1,000. And now we’re trying to get rid of the number limit altogether. Most states don’t face that. But that kept production and prices high, and the patient population low. But there have been more cultivators opening with larger plants from the beginning. So, we’re overcoming that.

Rachel: So, how did you get some of your first patients?

Jeffrey: Patients register to a dispensary. There were three dispensaries. Now there are five in the district. But a patient just can’t go to any one. They can only go to the dispensary to which they’ve registered. So, when the first three patients that we got signed up for the program, saw their doctors, turned in the applications, they checked off on the form, Takoma Wellness Center. And we were surprised when we got our first phone call from a patient saying, I’m here, where are you?

Rachel: So, nowadays do you advertise? Do people just hear about you through word of mouth? How do all of these people hear about Takoma Wellness Center first?

Jeffrey: All that and more. We advertise. Our patients and word of mouth are really important. Yesterday, we spent the day at the Capital Cannabis Show, where we had a table. And we were all there meeting prospective patients and telling people about our program. It’s become important for us to get out there and let people know that we’re here and that we have a great product to be able to offer them.

Rachel: Once you get an order in, what are the steps that happen for the product to get from either the farm or grow house here to the dispensary?

Jeffrey: OK. So, we have seven cultivation centers operating in the District of Columbia now. Either they’ll call us and say, we’ve got three pounds of Blue Dream available. How much would you like? Or we’ll know they have Blue Dream and we’ll call them and say, we need a pound of Blue Dream. How quickly can we get it? By law, the cultivators are required to then deliver to us. And they have to have a licensed delivery service. It’s sort of the same security people that we’re using as security guards.

They come with the delivery. They come with two receipts. And then we go over everything that’s in the order, weighing it and comparing the weight to what they say it is, and all on camera. So that when the police and the health department come to inspect, they can see the whole thing done on camera. And then we’ll lock it up in the safe. We have to enter it all into the system and make sure that it all matches up, because we’re going to have to be able to show every gram that came in and where it came from, and every gram that goes out and where it goes.

And as long as everything matches up, which thank goodness it always does, then we’re OK. And I suppose what they’re looking for is any cannabis that ended up in somebody else’s hands. So, they’ve always been very concerned about diversion. So, after we get everything into the system and make sure that it’s all tracked properly, we have to enter batch numbers. And basically, the Department of Health wants to follow each plant and know who’s getting what medicine from what plant.

Because if—and we haven’t seen any problem like this here in the district—if there should be something wrong with some of the medicine, if it had been diseased in some way or had some kind of condition or some kind of improper fertilizer had been used, the health department wants to make sure that they can recall it and recall it quickly, and know exactly who has which medicine. So that if there was a recall for a certain batch of Blue Dream, we wouldn’t have to worry about all the Blue Dream.

We would just have to talk to the people who purchased that particular Blue Dream. And once we’ve made sure that all that’s done, then we’ll open the bags. We have to take a look at it all physically. We have to be able to record for the Department of Health, and my son Josh does this, smell, texture, all kinds of our physical reactions to the medicine.

And then we’ll begin to prepare it for sale. We’ll put some in the display cases, so people can actually see it and smell it, and then begin to package it up for sale.

Rachel: Do you see a future in D.C. where recreational marijuana is totally legal and maybe that’s part of what you do?

Stephanie:  I think sooner or later, when Congress allows us, then it probably will be. We’ve thought about it. But we also mainly want to stay with medical. Because even when it’s adult use and it’s recreational, there’s a special place for medicinal, because people need to learn about it.

And I also think a lot of what people call recreational is also medicinal. I think people self-medicate a lot for anxiety and pain. And I’ve heard a lot of people say, well, I don’t need medical. But then, if I don’t use it, I’m really anxious and then I need to go back on my antidepressants, anti-anxiety. And I find that it’s really helpful for not doing that.

Rachel: Do you have concerns that any of your patients are sharing it with other people who are not licensed to be getting medical marijuana?

Stephanie:  Well, we explain it’s against the law when they first come in. We think the pricing—it’s still above what you can get on the street—would be prohibitive. They are not going to make any money by doing that.

Rachel: Can we do like a role play situation where I’m here and I’ve never tried pot before and I would like to get some information on it?

Stephanie: Of course.

Rachel: So, I’m really uncomfortable. I have no clue what to expect.

Stephanie:  Join the crowd. And we’ve had patients actually come in thinking we were a sting operation. We’ve had people come in, they feel like they should wear dark glasses and big hats. But don’t worry about it, because we have people here from all walks of life. Relax, and we’re going to walk you through it. I have a packet here that I explain. We have a welcome letter. We explain what our hours are.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the different strains, and I’m going to tell you about how to use them. Because most people just think that you just smoke a joint. We recommend that our patients think about using a vaporizer. When you say vaporizers, I know people of my generation often think of the kind of vaporizer when your child is sick and you put Vick’s in a vaporizer and it goes out into the room. These are personal vaporizers. Research has found that when you smoke, when you light a match, it’s actually 1,700 degrees.

And then you’re inhaling all of the products of combustion. And in fact, you’re actually burning up your medicine. But they found that cannabis, when you heat it just to 400 degrees releases its vapor. So, you do not have to actually smoke. When you vaporize, you’re inhaling the vapor, which has all of the cannabinoids in them, because you’re not burning them up. And you’re not inhaling the toxins that come with actually burning something. So, we suggest vaping.

We also have tinctures. So, if you don’t want to smoke at all, we have cannabis that’s infused in either grain alcohol or glycerin. And that you can use a few drops under your tongue, and you feel it almost immediately. And one thing about smoking, vaping, or using tinctures is that you can titrate your own dosage. So, you just use a little tiny bit and see how you feel. And then use a little tiny bit more and see how you feel.

And just go up very, very, very slowly. We don’t suggest you start with edibles. Because edibles are difficult to actually titrate your dosage. You take an edible, you’re not going to feel it for about an hour. And then what many people do is they’ll eat something and they’ll say in 45 minutes, I don’t feel anything, so I’m going to eat the rest. And then, that’s too much. So, it’s much easier when you’re either smoking, vaping, or using a tincture to feel and stop right away.

So, I’ll go over all of those with you. Also, we’ll talk about the side effects, and there’s very few side effects. And many of the side effects are things that are helpful, particularly the old story with the munchies. We have a number of patients who might have very decreased appetites, whether they’re going through chemo, for people who are anorexic. It can increase your appetite. There are other strains that don’t increase your appetite as much. So, depending on how you feel, then we can tailor this and make suggestions for you.

Besides side effects, then we talk about what a cannabinoid is. THC is the one that’s psychoactive. Really helpful for nausea and vomiting, for muscle spasms, for muscle and joint pain. CBD, which is cannabidiol, is not psychoactive at all. And it’s very, very helpful with seizures, anxiety, neuropathic pain, nerve pain, and as an anti-inflammatory.

And then every time you come here, you’re not going to be just thrown into the dispensary looking at 40 different strains of cannabis thinking, what am I doing? You’re always going to have a patient consultant there who’s going to be able to give you as much or as little information as you would like. For instance, that sativa strains are better for daytime, and they help keep you more alert. And that indica strains are better for evening and insomnia and sleeping. We put little suns on all of our sativas. So, when you look at them, you’ll know that they are for daytime.

We have little moons that we put on our strains for nighttime. And then we have a moon and a sun to show, as a visual symbol, that they’re hybrids. And then we have a little sticker so you know when you go home what this is.

Rachel: So, this is a lot of information and a lot of ways for me to ingest this. But how do I know it’s safe? I hear that it’s not.

Stephanie: Well, by buying medical cannabis, you know that this is all tested and monitored by the Department of Health. And we can only purchase from the licensed, legal growers in D.C. So, it’s not just off the street; we have much higher quality.

And if you are an older person, if you are someone who we call cannabis naïve, don’t do this at home alone. OK? Be with someone, so that if you feel uncomfortable, No. 1, you can stop. But you’re not alone, and you can always call us.

You have my personal email address. And I answer email really, really quickly. Or you can call us and we will help you. And any time you have questions, just let us know.

Rachel: My friends don’t smoke and I think they’re going to judge me. What do I tell them?

Stephanie:  Well, you don’t have to tell them anything, No. 1. But if you do, you can say that there’s a lot of evidence that shows that it’s very, very helpful for a variety of symptoms. And the stigma is really going away. I think more and more people who are highly functional individuals in all walks of life are saying, I’ve been doing this for years.

And so many of our patients come in and say, thank God I don’t have to go on the streets or be embarrassed anymore and feel safe. And this is just such a relief that I can essentially come out of the closet and say that this is my preferred medicine.

Rachel: Thanks so much for having us here and for giving us so much information on this.

Stephanie: It’s our pleasure and our passion. And so, we really appreciate you coming out here and talking to us.

Rachel: Thanks for listening to this episode of Working. I’m Rachel Gross. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast. You can email us at And you can listen to all five seasons at This episode was produced by Mickey Capper. Our executive producer is Steve Lickteig, and the chief content officer of the Panoply network is Andy Bowers. Thanks for subscribing to Slate Plus. In this exclusive extra, Jeffrey talks about taking his rabbinic skills to the dispensary.

So, I was really curious. I wanted to ask how being a rabbi first impacted how you run your pot dispensary. How was that transition from rabbi to dispensing something else besides wisdom?

Jeffrey: You know, it’s been a really interesting and fun transition. I use all my rabbinic skills here in the dispensary, and especially in working with people and trying to help them find a way to healthier lives.

Rachel: Can you elaborate a little?

Jeffrey: Sure. You know, I guess I spend a lot of time talking to folks. And I think that’s what clergy do in general, and to help them try and find ways to do things better. And we see so many people who don’t have people to talk to. Who don’t have that kind of relationship, where maybe in society’s past they would have with a clergy member, with a doctor.

You know, the program, even in its beginning, one of the changes that we were able to make is that here in D.C., any time a patient meets with a doctor, that’s considered a bona fide relationship between a patient and a doctor. But in the beginning, they were picturing it as if everybody in the district has like this doctor that they’ve been seeing for 40 years that, you know, was there at their birth, and will be there at their death, and knows everything about them, and they’re going to go and consult with.

The average person doesn’t have a doctor that they talk to. And when they need a doctor, they see a physician. So, they come here and they’re able to find the relief that they need and have people to be able to discuss it with. And so, we find that really important.

In other maybe more technical, rabbinic ways, we’re closed on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. Some of our patients are Jewish. That probably isn’t even really important to them. That’s not the reason that we’re doing it. But our patients really appreciate and respect it. They understand why. From a business sense, let’s say, the most important times to sell cannabis are Friday nights and Saturdays, and that’s when we’re closed. So, one would think that that would be a really difficult thing for a cannabis dispensary.

And yet, we find it works just fine. And today is Sunday, and we’ll see a lot of patients on Sunday. And we’ll make up for being closed on Friday night and Saturday.

Rachel: And you mentioned that for a lot of people that didn’t have a primary physician necessarily, they can come in regularly here and you’re kind of always here. So, do you have regulars that have come for years now you are sort of a pillar in their life?

Jeffrey: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know, I had mentioned that we were facing a severe shortage for a while. And so we were forcing everybody to come often because we were limiting how much they were able to buy. We knew that once we didn’t have to do that anymore, some people would still come often because that’s the way that they could afford to be able to get their medicine was in very, very small amounts. But other people come often because they like coming here. They like being able to purchase their medicine in this kind of environment.

And they like sharing with us and the other patients what their experiences have been. And because so much of cannabis use is anecdotal—I mean, basically the way people find which strains are best to try is they see that somebody else with the same issues found relief from that strain.

And when they’re actually able to meet up in our waiting room or in the dispensary and actually discuss or overhear somebody say, you know, that really helped for my back pain. And then say, oh, maybe I should try that. It’s an atmosphere that they really come to depend on and really enjoy.

Rachel: It sounds like there’s a lot of congregation and community happening here.

Jeffrey: Absolutely. It absolutely is. And it’s that same sense of community, and really interesting. And we see people from all walks of life, and every age, and every socioeconomic group that you can imagine.

And probably outside of here, our patients have very little in common. But inside here, they all have something very much in common, and they really enjoy being able to share their experiences.

Rachel: Do people ever approach you as if you’re a rabbi in this environment?

Jeffrey: Absolutely. And not just Jewish people. We see a lot of people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, who I guess in feeling that sort of sense of stigma are really interested in talking to a member of the clergy who doesn’t think this is some kind of terrible sin or some kind of awful thing that they’re doing.

And really don’t ever tell your clergyman because he’ll think you’re a sinner. Who is able to point out to them that as far as the Bible is concerned, I mean, God created all of the vegetation and told us to make use of it. And it only mentions one tree, the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the Garden of Eden, that we ought to stay away from. But otherwise, it seems like, according to the Bible, everything is there for our use.

Rachel: Fair game.

Jeffrey: So, everything else has been created by people to say we can’t. And so, I think that that becomes important to people too, because again, people are looking for a little bit of validation in how they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, because they’re used to hearing such bad things for so long.