Pubdate: Fri, 19 Mar 2010
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Daily Pilot
Authors: Brianna Bailey and Mona Shadia
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Newport couple hope their new 'medical marijuana information center' 
will help dissolve stigmas associated with the illegal drug.

Chadd and Alysha McKeen don't care that passersby can see the six 
3-foot-tall marijuana plants growing inside their new Costa Mesa storefront.

"I want to tell people to stop being afraid of it," said Chadd 
McKeen, co-founder of Otherside Farms. "We want to bring it out into the open."

The McKeens also put in new tile and ripped the bars off the windows 
at the center, which sits between a dog-grooming business and a 
therapeutic spa. It's all part of an effort to make the place appear 
open and inviting.

The shop at 2424 Newport Blvd. bills itself as a "medical marijuana 
information center." It offers classes on everything from how to grow 
marijuana for medicinal purposes to how to make pot brownies. The six 
plants growing underneath special lights in one foil-padded room of 
the shop are strictly for teaching purposes, the couple said.

"It's all self-taught," Alysha McKeen said of the couple's 
cultivation skills. "That learning curve is expensive, so we want to 
share what we know with people."

The new information center is offering two-day weekend workshops on 
the basics of growing marijuana, including lighting, air flow and 
growing equipment.

People can walk in to find out where to get a doctor's referral for 
medical marijuana, or how to find an attorney who specializes in 
medical-marijuana issues.

The couple also plan to organize legal workshops on medical-marijuana issues.

There have been bumps along the way to opening Otherside Farms.

It took the couple nearly a month to get a business license from 
Costa Mesa, Chadd McKeen said, because the city was concerned that 
the McKeens were trying to open up a marijuana dispensary, he said.

City officials have served cease-and-desist orders on half a dozen 
medical-marijuana dispensaries in Costa Mesa in recent weeks. Police 
raided two more this week, arresting workers on suspicion of felony 
drug violations.

While Otherside Farms runs a medical-marijuana delivery service, 
which serves cities across Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Costa 
Mesa shop is just a place where people can learn more about how to 
smoke, grow and bake with pot, the McKeens said.

"We took possession of the place on a Friday night, and the city was 
here at 8 a.m. Monday morning banging on the door," Chadd McKeen 
said. "The city flipped out.  Nobody knew what to do with us."

Costa Mesa City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow said that as long as 
Otherside Farms is not distributing or selling marijuana, it should 
not encounter any problems while operating in the city, though she 
said she will have to learn more about the business.

"They have a 1st Amendment right to speak, but they don't have a 1st 
Amendment right to distribute," Barlow said.

Mayor Allan Mansoor said he's concerned with who will be taught how 
to grow cannabis and "where it'll end up."

"Is it going to end up in kids' hands or people that get high all the 
time?" he said. "I have a problem with that. I've seen the effects of 
it. If it's truly someone that has a medical need, it needs to be 
within the law, so it depends on where it ends up."

Costa Mesa city officials have clashed with medical marijuana 
dispensaries in recent months over a 2005 citywide ban on such establishments.

Police were staking out Doc's, a dispensary a few doors down, for 
months, Chadd McKeen said.

Police raided Doc's earlier this week, hauling out bags of marijuana 
and arresting one man on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale 
and transporting the drug.

One night, police followed the McKeens as they left Otherside Farms, 
and pulled them over and searched their car, Chadd McKeen said.

McKeen and his wife, both 39, used to work in the real estate 
industry. The couple live in Newport Beach and have three kids.

"I'm not some guy who bailed out of real estate and decided to open a 
dispensary," Chadd McKeen said. "We see the front lines - I need this 

Alysha McKeen said she is undergoing treatment for skin cancer and 
medical marijuana helps her with side effects of treatment.

Chadd McKeen said he uses medical marijuana to ease pain from an old 
shoulder injury he suffered as a teenager working at Knott's Berry Farm.

The couple hope the shop will make medical marijuana more acceptable 
through education, they said.

"It's here, and it's not going to go away," Alysha McKeen said.
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