Dispensary owner responds to new regulations

By Ami Ridling
The city of Dunsmuir now has an ordinance that regulates Proposition 215 medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives. Leslie Wilde, owner of the Green Collar Compassionate Collective, is questioning aspects of the ordinance as well as the limitations she will now face in bringing safe medical marijuana access to her members.
At its March 18th meeting, the Dunsmuir City Council passed the ordinance, which has been in the works since November when the council created a special committee to help devise a list of appropriate regulations.
Planning Commission member Bob O’Connor was the chair of the special committee. He said that the committee members put together a list of regulatory recommendations which went before the planning commission, followed by the city council, for approval.
When the ordinance goes into effect next month, the long-standing moratorium on the issuance of business licenses for medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives in Dunsmuir will be lifted.
For assistance while wading through these unfamiliar waters, city staff retained attorney Sandra Spelliscy to serve as a consultant.  
 As of March 22, the cost of Spelliscy’s services from city funds was $1,425, said finance director Keith Anderson. He added that additional costs of consulting the city attorney on the regulations have run $1,262.
However, Wilde stated that there are a number of sections in the ordinance that are contrary to the Compassionate Use Act, which allows cooperatives and collectives to grow and distribute marijuana among members.
Rea Lucia, who sits on the Green Collar Compassionate Collective’s board of directors, participated in the special committee. She noted that some sections in the ordinance were not agreed upon by committee members during their meetings. 
“All the ways that would make it easier for people to gain safe access to medical marijuana were eliminated by this ordinance,” said Wilde.
For example, the ordinance states that onsite cultivation of medical marijuana, other than individual starter plants, at collectives/cooperatives is prohibited.
Wilde recalled when the city first began to consider regulations for medical marijuana establishments. The most common argument she heard from law enforcement personnel against cooperatives/collectives was the possibility that the marijuana offered at the facilities might be grown illegally on national forest land and sprayed with dangerous chemicals.
“The only way to have absolute control of the marijuana from beginning to end is to grow it here,” Wilde said.
While the growers who supply the Green Collar with medical cannabis sign a form which promises that the marijuana was grown legally, Wilde admitted that there is no way to be certain the marijuana is completely pure and organically grown unless it is cultivated onsite. 
“There is no logical explanation for why marijuana cannot be grown onsite,” said Lucia.
 In addition, Wilde explained that when selling starter plants, “Having a mother plant onsite is important in teaching people how to grow.”
Wilde also pointed out that the zoning code does not prohibit growing of plants in the C-2 commercial zone. In fact, the zoning code allows for nurseries to operate in the C-2 zone.
During a separate discussion with Spelliscy, she explained that there are different issues when raising marijuana than raising plants at a nursery. 
“People say, ‘we should be treated like any other business,’ but dispensaries are not like any other business,” Spelliscy said. “These are different issues.”
During a phone discussion with O’Connor, he said that the special committee members chose to recommend prohibiting the cultivation of medical marijuana at collectives because of the possibility that the odor from the plants could disturb neighboring businesses. However, the committee agreed that starter plants were appropriate because their odor is much less invasive.
Another ordinance provision that Wilde said will negatively affect members of her collective is the prohibition of marijuana transactions outside of the dispensary.
Currently, Wilde delivers medical marijuana to some of the collective’s members.
“I have several clients that are homebound,” Wilde explained at the March 18th council meeting before the ordinance was adopted. “The ordinance, as currently written, prevents home deliveries. I can’t imagine why it would be in the city’s interest to prevent this.”
“If these activities are taking place offsite, it is more difficult to monitor,” responded Spelliscy.
In addition, the ordinance prohibits the retail sale of any products that are unrelated to medical marijuana.
Wilde said she would like to sell artwork, CDs, t-shirts, hats, key chains, and other miscellaneous items. “Why would the city want to limit strains of revenue?” she asked.
Spelliscy responded that selling items unrelated to medical marijuana could be seen as a profit motive, and this measure would ensure that collectives and cooperatives operate on a not-for-profit basis.

Other ordinance
The ordinance states that   medical marijuana collectives/cooperatives will be permitted in the C-2 commercial district on Dunsmuir Ave. and Sacramento Ave. between Oak and Spring streets. They will not be permitted within 100 feet of a residential zone.
People who wish to open a medical marijuana dispensary must apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) through the city. Upon receipt of a CUP application, the Dunsmuir Planning Commission will hold a public hearing where the CUP application will be considered for issuance.
All property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed dispensary site will be given notice of the public hearing.  Permits will be granted and upheld by the planning commission contingent on the following operating conditions which are outlined in the ordinance:  
? The dispensary must be in compliance with the provisions of Proposition 215.
? All owners, operators, and employees must be 18 years of age or older and must undergo a criminal background check. People who have a felony on record will not be permitted to own or be employed at a dispensary.
? No person under the age of 18 will be allowed inside the facility and the dispensary operator must post a notice at the entrance indicating that minors are not allowed.
?   All food items containing medical marijuana must be compliant with county health code regulations.
? Dispensary days and hours of operation are restricted to times between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily.
? Consumption of medical marijuana at the dispensary is not permitted.
? The property owner/operator is required to report any illegal activities at the dispensary to law enforcement officials.