It was hot under the intense lights of the mini-grow room where more than a dozen of Andrew Giangreco's medical marijuana plants were flourishing.
"Electricity costs are huge," he says, fingering the dark green fronds of a four-foot-high "mother" plants and explaining how he prefers cultivating cannabis in ground coconut shells rather than hydroponically.
This is where Giangreco, a "caregiver" licensed by the state of Rhode Island, began his legalized pot-farming venture three years ago in the basement of this rented house in a working class neighborhood not far from downtown Providence.
Connecticut lawmakers seem poised to legalize medical marijuana in this state and Gov. Dannel Malloy sounds ready to sign that bad boy into law.
Although the proposed Connecticut system would be somewhat different from Rhode Island's pot program, we're likely to have our own home-grown versions of pot cultivators like Giangreco very soon.
Giangreco now has three patients that he's authorized to supply with limited amounts of medical marijuana. He also has a doctor's "recommendation" that allows him to legally grow and use marijuana for his own medical use.
"I have ulcers, so it helps me with intestinal pain," he says. "It also helps me on a spiritual level, and allows me to focus my energy."
The soft-spoken 27-year-old, acknowledges that he used marijuana for years before becoming a Rhode Island medical pot grower. But he insists he's not some wild-eyed pot-head out to get stoned whenever he can.
"I don't drink and I don't use other drugs," he says. "People with [Rhode Island medical marijuana] cards aren't just people who want to smoke cannabis."
He won't discuss how he makes his living apart from his marijuana operations, but adds he's a partner in and a contributor to a new magazine called Releaf, Your Natural Guide to Healing.
Giangreco says he works closely with his patients to find out what type and strength of pot works best for them. "My patients have a variety of symptoms," he explains, "including nausea, seizures and pain. One of my patients has multiple sclerosis."
"All of my patients are professional or working-class people," he says, adding that they don't want to grow their own weed in part because they don't want neighbors learning that they're using marijuana even if it is legal. "And when I show up at their house [with a delivery], they don't want me looking like a kid selling them dope."
Giangreco agreed to show off a small portion of his medical-marijuana operations on the condition that the location of his rental house be kept secret.
Today, Giangreco's main operation is elsewhere, a larger grow room in another part of the city. For security reasons, he says, he never reveals its location or other details. "Loose lips sink ships," he says.
The potential for theft is always on the minds of legalized growers, according to Giangreco: "That's the number one thing people have to worry about."
When he was growing and storing marijuana in the house where he lives, Giangreco says, his four large dogs were his primary security.
Then he got concerned about what would happen if the dogs ever savaged some innocent person. That's when he moved his main operations to another, more secret location.
He's pretty certain Rhode Island law enforcement doesn't know where his grow operation is hidden. "I sure hope not," he says, explaining that his state's medical marijuana laws tend to be "very confusing for police," making it a lot easier if they don't know where he's growing.
Under Rhode Island law, a licensed caregiver is allowed to have up to five patients, each of whom must get a doctor's recommendation to be allowed to possess and use pot legally. Patients can also legally grow their own.
For each of the first two patients, a caregiver can have up to 12 "vegetative" plants to raise and another 12 plants in flower for harvesting. He or she is also allowed to have up to two-and-a-half ounces of "dry material" marijuana that is being readied for use. Even with more patients, 48 plants and five ounces is the maximum amount allowed for one caregiver in Rhode Island, Giangreco says.