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Pot shop lights up the town: Medical users get Santa Cruz outlet September 16, 2005 - santacruzsentinel.com
SANTA CRUZ - Beginning Wednesday, local medical marijuana patients should be able to legally buy pot at an office in the Harvey West industrial area.
Boulder Creek resident Lisa Molyneux secured the necessary permits from the city to open Greenway Compassionate Relief Inc. on DuBois Street, a plan that was unanimously approved by the City Council on July 26.
Police Chief Howard Skerry and Dannettee Shoemaker, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department, recommended the council deny the project.
Skerry, refusing to comment Thursday, previously told the council that the proximity of Harvey West Park to the marijuana dispensary could exacerbate drug dealing, drinking and illegal camping in the area.
The Harvey West Area Association also wrote a letter opposing the special-use permit.
Despite the reservations, Molyneux's final hurdle before opening Greenway is a walk-through inspection with city officials set for Monday to examine security measures and planned operations for the medical marijuana business.
If everything passes, she said, the shop will open 11 a.m. Wednesday.
"I'm ready. I want to get this thing open," Molyneux said. "Patients come by all the time when I'm there working on stuff. They're all looking at me to open."
Molyneux's dispensary will be the first legal business of its kind in Santa Cruz, a city sympathetic to the cause.
The dispensary could face an uncertain future as state and local laws allowing marijuana use for medicinal reasons defies a staunch federal law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that declares the drug illegal.
City officials have made it clear that Molyneux would be responsible for whatever legal fights might be ahead.
The police and fire departments signed off on Molyneux's building permit Wednesday, Mike Ferry of the city Planning Department said.
So far, Molyneux, who left her job as a broadcast engineer with Fox News Sports in Los Angeles after the council agreed to her plan, has spent $100,000 in getting the business ready to open.
Monthly rent on the 4,000-square-foot building is $5,000, she said. Molyneux will only use about 1,000 square feet initially.
Greenway will be limited to buying and selling the drug, and patients will not be allowed to consume marijuana at the site, nor will plants be sold.
Patients can purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana at a time, depending on the recommendation from their doctor, Molyneux said. Her prices will range from $25-$55 for an eighth of an ounce.
Once the business gets going, Molyneux hopes to drop the prices.
Pot will be provided by patients who grow the plant, she said.
"This is about patients taking care of patients," Molyneux said.
A security guard will be stationed in the lobby, and a receptionist will verify medical marijuana cards and physician licenses, Molyneux said.
The council denied Molyneux from offering massage, education and support groups until it's proven she can run the dispensary with few problems.
A city review is planned six months after Greenway opens.
"I can't do anything but dispense for six months," she said.
The council also required Molyneux to write an operations manual for Greenway, which the city attorney approved Sept. 9, Ferry said.
She plans to be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Young patient wants to ease other patients concerns, fears
UC Santa Cruz student Mike Clifford learned what it's like to become a medical marijuana patient three years ago.
At age 19, Clifford found himself suffering a hernia and a stomach condition called gastritis, something that severely limited his ability to eat. He'd become full on only half a slice of pizza, he said.
A medical marijuana prescription saved his appetite, he said. But it was an internship with MediCann, an organization of alternative medicine clinics statewide dedicated to medical marijuana patients, that opened his eyes to the widespread problems related to patients and their access to the drug.
"It was like our hands were tied," said Clifford, a senior studying economic justice. "We have a prescription, but it's illegal to buy and sell."
Clifford is now channeling his frustrations and expertise into a downtown information center that caters to the questions and anxieties of medical marijuana patients.
The Local Patients Advocacy Group opened at 903 Pacific Avenue recently.
The office, located across from the Metro bus station, is designed "to provide a comfortable environment for members to discuss issues, review educational material, access the Internet and, most importantly, become involved in an organization to call their own."
About 25 members signed up during the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana WAMMFest at San Lorenzo Park on Saturday, Clifford said.
The advocacy group will operate on membership dues and donations, he said.
Inside the office are folding tables, milk crates and computers, he said.
Clifford swapped two months of office rent - $1,200 - for helping the landlord with some construction projects.