Pubdate: Sat, 14 Dec 2013
Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Record
Author: Dana M. Nichols


SAN ANDREAS - Just in time for the holidays, Calaveras County has a 
record five medical marijuana dispensaries in operation, enough 
different stores so that some are carving out market niches.

The Little Trees Wellness Collective in Arnold is proclaiming itself 
the high-end shop, stocking a wide selection of smokeables and 
edibles, including organic vegan chocolate. Relative newcomer Green 
Gold Cultivators in San Andreas is the discount outlet offering 
prices low enough to lure customers from Stockton.

But medical marijuana patients shouldn't wait until January for 
after-Christmas sales. At least some of the shops could be out of 
business by then because of a crackdown on those that don't comply 
with county codes.

Only one of the five shops - Blue Mountain Collective in San Andreas 
- - has the proper professional office zoning and the required use permit.

Calaveras County Counsel Janis Elliott on Oct. 1 sent a letter to 
three other non-compliant shops then in operation telling them to 
comply with the codes by Dec. 2 or face a "civil enforcement action."

Those three shops are Little Trees, which opened this year; Calaveras 
Medical Collective, which opened this year next to a pizza parlor in 
Valley Springs; and Forgotten Knowledge Collective, which has been 
operating in Valley Springs since 2010.

After that first letter went out, Green Gold opened for business in 
the former location of a gun store on Highway 49 in San Andreas.

Green Gold owners Dave Bernhard and Tom Calmese said they, too, 
received a letter telling them to come into compliance and that they 
were given a Jan. 6 deadline.

Green Gold may have been the last shop to get a letter, but it may be 
the first to succumb to the crackdown. "Our landlord said we have to 
be out by (Jan. 6) because of the county," Calmese said.

Calmese said it is extremely difficult to find places to rent in 
Calaveras County that have the required professional office zoning. 
Green Gold currently is in a commercially zoned building that 
includes a laundromat, a bar and the now-vacant site of a former head shop.

Jeremy Carlson, owner of Little Trees, said he's optimistic he 
eventually will be able to come into full compliance with county 
codes. He's applied to have the necessary zoning change for the 
commercial building on Highway 4 where he rents a space, and he's 
also applied for the required use permit.

Calaveras County planner Andrew J. Morgensen confirmed that Little 
Trees is the only medical marijuana business that has applied for the 
permit and zoning change.

Morgensen said he doesn't know how long it will take to process 
applications. Morgensen also said that other prospective medical 
marijuana shop operators have made inquiries in recent months about 
the zoning at other locations.

What will happen next is not clear. Deputy Calaveras County Counsel 
Julie Moss-Lewis said in emails that her office has not yet taken any 
enforcement action and does not have any information to provide on 
when or how that could happen.

At the same time, county elected leaders are reviewing the county's 
medical pot ordinance to consider whether to allow the businesses in 
commercial districts. That review won't happen until next year, which 
could be too late for Green Gold, Bernhard said.

"They want to kick everybody out and then rewrite the ordinance," 
Bernhard said.

No one responded to requests for comment left with representatives of 
the Forgotten Knowledge and Calaveras Medical collectives.

Those medical marijuana shop operators who were interviewed for this 
story continue to say they are puzzled why local officials seem to 
want to kill businesses that pay taxes and, at least under state law, 
are legal.

"I've only been here for a little over a month, and I've already 
generated more than $1,000 in taxes for the state," Calmese said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom