Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Leader Of San Diego Dispensary Group Has A History Of Fighting 
Government Regulations

When medical marijuana providers sought to repeal new restrictions on 
collectives in San Diego, they turned to a hard-charging veteran of 
the adult entertainment industry with a record of wrangling 
government regulations.

Waldon Randall Welty leads the Patient Care Association, a coalition 
of 63 dispensaries in the city. Welty, 64, lives in San Bernardino 
County and has ties to three collectives in San Diego. He spearheaded 
a signature-gathering effort that could force the city to repeal its 
regulations of medical marijuana shops or put the matter on the ballot.

A native Texan, Welty's background is in strips clubs and adult book 
stores. Some involved in the repeal effort worry that his past is a 
liability they don't need.

Welty has a rap sheet, including charges of assaulting his wife with 
a baseball bat in 2008 that resulted in a guilty plea to misdemeanor 
aggravated trespassing in Santa Barbara County.

Flesh Club, his Inland Empire cabaret locked in years of legal 
wrangling with the city, defiantly bore the banner "The pride of San 

Those who enter the public arena should be allowed their foibles, Welty said.

"The reason we have third-rate politicians and we have third-rate 
intelligentsia in our political circles right now is because it's 
almost impossible to get through life without a seriously 
embarrassing moment, either one that has been contrived by someone 
else, is a lie or you've actually been dumb enough to do," Welty said 
in an interview Wednesday.

At least one dispensary director has left the trade group over 
concerns about his involvement. Welty said he is not embarrassed by 
his past transgressions, but does not want them to hurt the cause.

"Whenever I've fought the battles that I've fought before, I fought 
them just for me. I was accountable only to me and if I lost it would 
only hurt me," he said. "This is not the case in this fight and there 
would be a lot of people hurt if this is not eventually faced and 
faced in an adult manner."

The San Diego City Council in April ratified an ordinance requiring 
the city's estimated 160 collectives to shut down and apply for 
permits. Dispensaries would be limited to some commercial and 
industrial zones, at least 600 feet from one another as well as 
schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care and youth facilities, 
parks and churches.

The law sparked formation of the trade association. "Almost all of 
them understood that this would be the end of it if something was not 
done, if people did not pick up the flag and march forward with it," he said.

Welty runs the group's meetings, although he does so on an interim basis.

"All of the members of the PCA look forward to holding official 
elections in the fall to select a permanent board," the group said in 
a statement from its spokesman, a dispensary director who declined to 
be identified.

Attorney Jessica McElfresh, who represents many dispensaries across 
Southern California, said Welty has a track record of going 
head-to-head with municipalities.

"He's not afraid of a good fight," she said. "But above all, he wants 
the same thing we all do, which is safe access and reasonable regulation."

Welty said he does not run or profit from a collective in San Diego, 
but he has been involved since 2009 because a family member is the 
director of Green Earth Herbal Collective, Ocean Beach Wellness 
Center and Green Rose Organic Wellness.

His leadership in the coalition has sparked shouting matches.

Kim Twolan, director of Mother Earth Co-Op and a member of the city's 
regulation task force, resigned from the association after her 
colleagues refused to distance themselves from Welty.

Activists, including some from the Americans for Safe Access San 
Diego Chapter, at one point called a meeting with the association 
board to air differences. Activist Terrie Best said her character has 
been attacked repeatedly by associates of Welty.

"I am really upset that he is trying to project himself as the face 
of medical cannabis in our community," said Best said, who also was 
turned off by his demeanor and the fact that he refused to step 
aside. "When you get in the same room with this guy, you want to take 
a shower afterward."

Manta Management Inc. is the parent company of Tropical Lei in 
Upland, Flesh Club in San Bernardino and the now-defunct Hawaii 
Theatre in Industry. Over the years, Welty has had numerous run-ins 
with code enforcement and law enforcement.

He opened Flesh Club as a topless bar in 1994, and it was shut down a 
year later under a local zoning ordinance. Authorities said Flesh 
Club provided sanctuary for paid sex, which Welty denies.

A court found the city's rules to be illegal, and the establishment 
reopened in 1999. A jury later awarded Welty $1.4 million for lost 
profits. The city is appealing the award.

In 2002, then-Gov. Gray Davis returned a $10,000 contribution from 
Manta Management. Davis' spokesman said the donation "didn't pass the 
smell test."

Welty also ran an adult bookstore and peep-show arcades and lost a 
battle in court to open a two-story nude juice bar in Garden Grove.

Recently, he won a battle to put a 13,000-square-foot luxury home 
atop a ridge in Santa Barbara County, over the objection of one 
supervisor who called it "an audacious, monstrous development 
violating our policies."

"I have learned my lessons over 40 years and I know how to win 
fights," Welty said. "I am going to win this one in San Diego."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart