Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jan 2011
Source: Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Calaveras Enterprise
Bookmark: (California)


Gretchen Seagraves displays some of her merchandise. Enterprise photo 
by Joel Metzger After two years of persistence, West Point resident 
Gretchen Seagraves will open the doors of the Blue Mountain 
Collective in San Andreas Feb. 1.

"We are going to have nothing but top quality medicine for affordable 
prices," Seagraves said.

Seagraves said that BMC is the first legal marijuana collective in 
the tri-county area, adding that she went through all the appropriate 
steps to get approved by the county. "I'm completely excited about 
the fact that the county approved it," said Tom Liberty, the founder 
of Calaveras Patient Resources, a medical marijuana patient advocacy 
group. "Our county, after 15 years, is ready to catch up with the 
rest of the state."

It wasn't easy, Seagraves said, adding that she felt her efforts were 
stymied by the county and especially former Sheriff Dennis Downum.

"Dennis has screwed with me for two years," Seagraves said. "Steve 
Wilensky (District 2 supervisor) has been very supportive. He told 
me, 'You know, Gretchen, why don't you wait until the new sheriff comes in?'"

That's exactly what she did, and she said Sheriff Gary Kuntz has 
already met with her personally.

"He was very kind and said, 'Gretchen, as long as you abide by the 
law, it won't be a problem,'" Seagraves said.

Kuntz confirmed this Thursday morning when he said that Seagraves has 
the legal right to open.

"I don't have a problem with it as long as they stay within the 
parameters of the law," Kuntz said. "The people vote to make these 
laws and I'm there to enforce the laws and respect them."

Despite being given the runaround by the county, Seagraves said, it 
is her own life experience that kept her motivated to succeed.

"I'm a breast cancer survivor," she said. "I believe medical 
marijuana saved my life not in curing the cancer, but in enabling me 
to deal with the symptoms so I was able to get well.

"I was vomiting, and couldn't keep anything down. I was down to 93 
pounds and was lying on the couch waiting to die. My oldest son told 
me it (medical marijuana) would help with the nausea. Throughout high 
school, I forbid him to use marijuana. He would sneak around and use 
it. I was so desperate that I tried it. It allowed me to start 
getting down some broth. That was the beginning of my recovery."

Seagraves said she now knows the benefits of using medical marijuana 
and wants to make those benefits available in a safe, comfortable 
environment to people who need them.

"I'll be 61 Feb. 4," she said. "I shouldn't have to sneak around the 
dark alleys looking for medicine and neither should anyone else."

While Seagraves does want to help as many people as possible, she is 
committed to tight security, which will only allow patients with 
valid doctors' recommendations and identification to enter the 
collective. "We'll have a camera and intercom stationed outside the 
front door," said employee Jerry Garcia. "We can scan recommendations 
and take pictures of patients' IDs before we allow entry."

Seagraves said all her employees go through a background check.

Joey Maldonado, chief of security for the collective, said he had 
been unemployed for two years before being offered the job by Seagraves.

"It's a big load off my shoulders not having to stress or worry about 
where money's coming from," he said. "It's nice to have that breathing room."

Garcia had to shut down his construction business more than a year 
ago and has been looking for work to support his family.

"Thanks to Gretchen and Blue Mountain Collective, my family has 
better options and had Christmas," Garcia said. "It really made the 
difference when discussing with my wife whether we needed to move out 
of the county just to find work." "It gives me a great feeling, not 
only to give the jobs but to see the smiles on their faces when I pay 
them," Seagraves said.

The collective is at 692 Suite A on Marshall Street, across the 
street from Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital and adjacent to the San 
Andreas California Highway Patrol.

During the approval process, neighbors within 300 feet had to be 
notified that a collective was planned and they had an opportunity to complain.

Though Seagraves said several negative letters were sent to the 
county about her plans, an official appeal, which costs $100 to file, 
was never turned in to the county. If that complaint had been filed, 
the collective would have gone before the Planning Commission and 
could eventually have been appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

"I was surprised nobody appealed," Seagraves said. "It could have set 
me back months."

BMC's closest neighbor is the county Public Defender's Office, which 
is part of the same building, and is Seagraves' tenant.

Chief Defense Attorney Scott Gross said he had no problem with the 
collective being next door because "We are not owners, just renters.

"Many people think we will have a lot of mutual clients," Gross said 
with a smile.

Patients visiting the collective will find a wide variety of medicine 
and accessories from which to choose.

"To start we have nine different varieties of medicine," Seagraves 
said. "They are from Amsterdam and Oaksterdam University all locally 
grown. We will have indica, sativa and hybrids all top quality. In 
addition, we have accessories to aid the patients with their 
medication such as 'medibles,' pipes, papers, wraps, blunts, cones 
and cleaners."

Oaksterdam University is a non-accredited for-profit educational 
facility and "political institution" founded in 2007 by medical 
marijuana activist Richard Lee to offer training for the cannabis 
industry. Its main campus is in downtown Oakland. Between Jan. 19 and 
when she opens Feb. 1, Seagraves is tying up loose ends, such as 
paving a portion of her parking lot and installing an alarm system.

"There has to be a local safe place for people to get quality 
medicine for an affordable price," Seagraves said. "All I care about 
is whether or not I can make the mortgage payment and pay the 
employees that I need to have. Other than that, I'm putting 
everything back into the community."  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake