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‘Herbal remedies’ shop prompts Monterey to consider moratorium

by Cal Pot News (repost)
Cannabis cooperatives are becoming more common in California. Like anything new, they should be regulated in a way that is fair to everyone.

As the Monterey County Herald reports here, the Monterey City Council is set to consider a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries at its Tuesday meeting. The Herald’s Daniel Lopez offers a more in-depth story on the subject than average, with contributions by fellow reporter Kevin Howe.


The proposed moratorium was spurred by the opening of MyCaregiver Inc. on Lighthouse Avenue. (The hyperlinked City Council agenda is here.)

City officials say MyCaregiver is a medical marijuana dispensary and the nature of the business was not fully disclosed when a business license was applied for. The application listed MyCaregiver Inc. as a “Healthcare Cooperative/Individual & Family Services,” city officials said.

Jhonrico Carrnshimba of San Lorenzo, who said MyCaregiver is a cooperative of which he is a director, said Thursday that the distribution of medical marijuana was covered in listing “herbal remedies” when applying for the license.

“That’s exactly what we provide,” he said, adding that he tries to be “straight up” with city officials when opening a dispensary.

‘Sensitive nature’

In 2006, Carrnshimba approached the cities of Seaside and Marina with a proposal for a dispensary. Both cities have since adopted bans on marijuana clinics.

A year later, Patients Choice, a dispensary Carrnshimba was involved with in San Mateo, was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Carrnshimba said there was nothing illegal happening at the San Mateo dispensary. Authorities said it was a pot shop operating under the guise of a medical marijuana cooperative, and San Mateo city officials said that on an application for a business license it was not disclosed that marijuana would be distributed, according to news reports about the raid.

Carrnshimba said the “sensitive nature” of the medication, patient privacy and potential security risks are the reasons why cooperative directors have not specifically listed marijuana on applications.

Monterey city officials said they learned earlier this month that MyCaregiver is a medical marijuana dispensary through news reports about the center.

Carrnshimba said there is a need in the Monterey area for a place where people can get medical marijuana. The closest dispensaries with permits to operate are in Santa Cruz and San Jose.

“We want to make sure the community is able to stay here in the community,” Carrnshimba said.

In 1996, California voters passed an initiative legalizing the medical use of cannabis. Federal law still prohibits all use of marijuana, but the Obama administration has backed off on federal prosecution of medical marijuana users who obey state laws.

Order from city

The city is trying to close down MyCaregiver. A cease-and-desist order was issued Jan. 11 to MyCaregiver, because city officials say medical marijuana dispensaries are not mentioned in city zoning ordinances and are therefore prohibited. The order can be appealed to the city Planning Commission.

The dispensary remains open and the co-op members are being represented by James Roberts, a San Jose attorney who is also representing a co-op that opened a dispensary in Gilroy without a business license in November.

Roberts said Friday that contrary to the city’s determination and interpretation of city ordinances, MyCaregiver is operating lawfully.

He said the co-op is a nonprofit organization and thus exempt from licensing requirements. His clients applied for the business license because it “was the easy thing to do,” and they wanted to avoid a conflict, Roberts said.

Property owner miffed

Notice of the cease-and-desist order was sent to Jerald and Debra Heisel of Carmel, owners of 554 Lighthouse Ave. In a letter to the Heisels, the city said it is their obligation to keep the property in compliance with city ordinances and they could be fined $2,500 daily until the violations are corrected.

Jerald Heisel said Saturday he was an innocent victim, caught in the middle of a dispute between the city and his tenants. He is miffed at both sides, he said.

He had no idea the clinic intended to operate a medical marijuana dispensary, Heisel said. And his lease with the operators of MyCaregiver requires the tenants to comply with all laws, permits and ordinances.

Trying to cooperate

Heisel said he was annoyed with city officials for threatening him with fines and demanding that he take action against the tenants before the city established that the they had engaged in unlawful conduct.

Heisel said he intended to cooperate with the city, but that he could not evict the tenants or take any immediate action against the clinic because of the lease.

Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn said the city has no intention of charging any fines before the deadline for MyCaregiver to appeal expires.

Cohn said the operators of MyCaregiver can petition the city to change its ordinances to include medical marijuana dispensaries.

City staff visited the dispensary Friday to learn more about the operation and to answer questions for Carrnshimba, Cohn said.

Roberts said this clients want to work with the city.

“MyCaregiver Inc. would prefer to have cooperation rather than litigation,” he said.

Cannabis cooperatives are becoming more common in California and Roberts said that like anything new they should be regulated in a way that is fair to everyone.

“They are new and need to be dealt with,” he said adding that banning them is not the way to go. “It really puts the city behind in the times.”

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