Pubdate: Thu, 02 Dec 2010
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Lee Enterprises
Author: Natalie Hoffman


Napa is on track to get its first medical marijuana dispensary next
year, with six applicants seeking to be the one chosen.

Passed in June, the city's new medical pot ordinance allows for just
one dispensary to operate in the first year.

The applicants vying to open Napa's first dispensary are: the Grateful
Valley Compassion Center, Harmony Health & Wellness Center, Mr.
Natural, Inc., Napa Holistic Remedies, Inc., Napa Organics and Remedia
- - Napa Valley, according to Desiree Brun, who manages the process for
the city.

Contenders submitted applications from early August to mid-October.
The city staff is set to name the victor in January or February, Brun

Lowell Downey, a 17-year Napa resident and board member of Safe
Medicine Access, a medical marijuana advocacy nonprofit, belongs to
one of the groups, Grateful Valley Compassion Center.

Grateful Valley's proposed dispensary would be run by locals, Downey
said. It would start with a staff of seven, eventually employing as
many as 15 people, he said. The center would donate a portion of
profits to local causes, he added.

Downey's group has hired Robert Jacob, who runs the Peace in Medicine
medical marijuana dispensary in Sebastopol, as a business and security

"The reason we respect them is there are very few dispensaries out
there that really set the bar," Downey said. "We feel that they've
been very helpful in giving us guidance," he said.

Center employees would follow strict protocol, including regularly
checking in with prescribing doctors and reviewing physicians' medical
board records before dispensing medical marijuana to patients, Downey

Emmanuel Donval of the nonprofit Harmony Patients' Center of Napa,
Inc., is in one of the groups competing with Downey's. Using the name
Harmony Health & Wellness Center, Donval's group plans on giving
preference to hiring a local staff and - in line with state law -
donating a percentage of its profits to local organizations, he said.

"We propose to create a restricted fund that would be administrated by
a local foundation," Donval said. "That's a very impartial way to
distribute money to nonprofit organizations."

Because of the ongoing tug-of-war between federal and state laws
regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, the industry is in the early
stages of developing standards.

"Medical cannabis is an interesting industry in its development right
now. There isn't a refined set of best practices," said Jacob, who
began running Sebastopol's Peace in Medicine dispensary more than four
years ago.

Jacob said he's advising Downey's group about everything from
dispensary equipment and running a legally compliant business to
hiring and security practices. Hiring local employees is good
business, he said.

"For me, it is really important that dispensaries are locally owned
and operated," he said. "Transparency and community relations is a key
part to a dispensary being successful in a community."

Bill Iverson, a Harmony board member and president of the Napa Spinal
Cord Injury Network, is passionate about his group's plan to set aside
15 percent of net dispensary profits for local nonprofits. The money
could serve local people with disabilities, the homeless and people
struggling with mental health issues, he said.

"Obviously, everyone needs money right now," Iverson said. "This is an
opportunity that could be really advantageous to the community ...
there's so much that could be done, it would be earth-shattering."

The dispensary permit process will kick off after the city taps an
applicant and concludes a comment period during which fellow
applicants can weigh in, Brun said.


Who is bidding

In line with Napa's new medical marijuana ordinance, six applicants
are vying to open Napa's first medical pot dispensary. They are:

Grateful Valley Compassion Center

Harmony Health & Wellness Center

Mr. Natural, Inc.

Napa Holistic Remedies, Inc.

Napa Organics

Remedia - Napa Valley
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