Pubdate: Mon, 26 Sep 2011
Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Record
Author: Scott Smith


Critics Say Proposed Location Sits Too Close to Chavez High School

STOCKTON - A Sacramento businessman behind plans for a medical 
marijuana dispensary already booted from one Stockton neighborhood 
said he's now receiving resistance for asking to open shop not far 
from Cesar Chavez High School.

Nicholas Street is applying to run Stockton Non-Profit Collective 
Inc. from 3646 Telstar Place, next to Hertz Car Sales. Street said he 
chose the location because it's on a fenced-off lot and is tucked 
away in an industrial area.

That's exactly the kind of place city leaders told him to find, he 
said, when they rejected his bid earlier this year to open for 
business at a Fremont Street locale.

This conflict marks the latest bout of growing pains for Stockton as 
it loosens its grip on medical marijuana sales.

Street's plans for the business - less than a one-mile walk from 
Chavez - already have caught the attention of Carl Toliver, 
superintendent of the Stockton Unified School District. Toliver is 
mounting opposition.

"We just don't need our kids exposed to this," Toliver said. "We have 
enough going on in our community as it is."

Toliver said that at a regular district meeting Tuesday, he'll ask 
his board to pass a resolution objecting to the dispensary's plan to 
move into the neighborhood. Assuming the resolution is approved, 
Toliver will then deliver it to the city.

The Stockton Planning Commission is expected to consider Street's 
application Nov. 10.

Toliver said he doesn't object to the use of medical marijuana 
prescribed by a doctor, but he doesn't want his students having to 
walk by the type of storefronts that all too often attract an 
undesirable "element."

"We just want to keep our youngsters away from that," he said. "We'd 
prefer that it not be there."

Street said he's asked to meet with Toliver and Chavez principal 
William Nelson to explain how he and his business partner, Suneet 
Agarwal, operate a similar enterprise in Sacramento, but so far his 
requests haven't been granted.

In 2008, the pair launched El Camino Wellness Center in Sacramento. 
In their permit application to Stockton officials, they heralded it 
as "Sacramento's leading medical cannabis dispensary."

Also in that application packet, Street included 20 letters of 
support from the Sacramento dispensary's patients, a neighboring 
business and Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn, who calls it a 
"model dispensary."

Street's goal now is to allay Toliver's concern that students will be 
exposed to the Stockton dispensary coming from and going to the 
school. Telstar Place is a side street off Holman Road, the main 
route leading to Chavez, he said.

"There would be no students walking by, unless they were looking to 
rent a car from Hertz," Street said.

He also said he's prepared to donate money to the school's anti-drug 
programs; the dispensary will have security guards and cameras; and, 
most importantly, they're well within the legal terms prescribed by 
the city's ordinance.

Among its dictates, the ordinance says that dispensaries can open if 
they're not within 600 feet of a school, park or library. The 
measurement is made by the path of travel rather than a straight 
line. Street says he's more than twice the distance from the school's 
front door.

Smoking marijuana on or around the dispensary also is prohibited, the 
ordinance says.

"I know its a hot-button issue," he said. "All we want to do is just 
show them we're not bad guys."

Earlier this year, the city's Planning Commission told Street he 
couldn't open the shop at 1220 W. Fremont St. because it was within 
300 feet of homes and lacked parking. It also was down the street 
from another planned dispensary.

City leaders feared creating "cannabis row" in Stockton, Street said.

Stockton's two other approved dispensaries have yet to open for 
business. City officials said that could happen in the next 30 days. 
They are Port City Health and Wellness at 1550 W. Fremont St. and 
Collective 99 in Eastland Plaza on Wilson Way.

Despite a second round of opposition to his venture, Street said he's 
not about to give up.

"We're champing at the bit," he said. "We've been waiting far too long."

Opinions remain mixed at and around Chavez. Nelson, the principal, 
said his job running the school prevents him from making political 
comments. But speaking as a native Stocktonian, he said he has 
problems with the dispensary.

It has the potential of exposing some 3,000 students to marijuana 
use. He has nearly 2,300 students at Chavez, and there are three more 
elementary schools nearby. Nelson said the dispensary runs contrary 
to the messages teachers impart in health class and during the annual 
Red Ribbon Week, which discourage students from smoking, drinking and drug use.

"I understand the city has made some decisions here," he said. "If 
anything, they need to find a place in town that is farthest from any campus."

But Sam Dunkan, who lives near Chavez, said having a dispensary in 
the neighborhood doesn't bother him.

The 71-year-old Vietnam veteran long ago raised his children to 
adulthood and said that trying to hide the reality of a progressive 
society - such as the use of medical marijuana - is doing children a 

Children are bound to learn about it one way or another, he said. 
Ultimately, he said, parents are the ones who help form the next 
generation's sense of right or wrong, not the sight of a dispensary nearby.

"Education starts in the home," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart