Pubdate: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 Source: Napa Valley Register (CA) Copyright: 2011 Lee Enterprises Contact: http://www.napavalleyregister.com Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/736 Author: Chantal M. Lovell NAPA PICKS PREFERRED MEDICAL POT PROVIDER More than a year after the Napa City Council approved an ordinance allowing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, the city's preferred operator has been named. Harmony Patients' Center of Napa, Inc. is the city's applicant of choice, Cass Walker, the city's community development director, announced last week. Five other applicants have until Sept. 7 to comment on the decision, then it is up to Walker to make the final selection, Planning Manager Rick Tooker said. City staff evaluated the six applications in January, then picked the top three - Harmony, Remedia Collective and Safe Medicine Access, Inc. - - for interviews in June, Tooker said. Following the interviews, City Manager Mike Parness, finance consultant Vince Goetz and Tooker sent a letter to Walker recommending Harmony as the most qualified of the candidates. Their recommendation and Walker's subsequent preliminary decision were based on Harmony's superior business plan and experience, Tooker said. Harmony, which is affiliated with a dispensary in San Francisco, showed "a high level of business experience" during the application and interview process and presented a complete business and finance plan, he said. "The plan shows attention to a broader delivery of wellness services to be provided to patients," the staff letter to Walker said. "(Harmony) provided a strong outline of the procedures to qualify patients as well as vendors." Bill Iverson, a Napa resident who is Harmony's board chairman, said he does not yet know how many patients Harmony could serve in its first year, but estimated the number could be a few thousand. Harmony presented clear plans on how it will document the cannabis it will distribute, staff said. "Transaction tracking and logging, including product bar-coding linked to transaction limits, was thoroughly described in the interview, as were provisions for a diversion plan, a clear reporting program, proactive reporting to the city and allowing independent review of records by the city," the letter said. Harmony will also track its product to forecast future purchasing needs and trends and was the only applicant that provided a specific plan on how it will deal with surplus marijuana, the letter said. According to the conditions of its selection, Harmony will have three security guards at its dispensary. One will be located outside, one in the entry area and the third will be stationed inside the dispensary area. After Walker makes her final decision, the named applicant has 120 days to submit an application for a use permit in Napa. Iverson said he does not yet know where Harmony could operate if it is chosen, but said the nonprofit dispensary is committed to hiring local people who are disabled. The planned dispensary and a companion warehouse for growing marijuana will both require a use permit, with public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council on the locations and conditions of operation. Iverson, a quadriplegic since he broke his neck nine years ago, said medical marijuana can be described as a remedy for severe, chronic pain, among other ailments. "The amount of people that medical cannabis is able to help is just huge," he said. "It can be prescribed to people who have spasms and pain or other things. The list goes on and on." Iverson said Harmony plans to donate 10 percent of its profits back into the community, though he does not yet know which organization or organizations it will support. Medical marijuana supporters dominated the seven months of hearings that preceded the City Council's unanimous adoption of the ordinance that makes Napa the first and only city in the county to allow a medicinal marijuana dispensary. In 1996, California voters approved an initiative to legalize medical cannabis. Sixty percent of Napa voters supported that measure. According to city staff, it could take the dispensary six months to go through the process of getting a use permit. After the first dispensary has been opened for one year, the city will consider whether there is enough need to allow a second one. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.