Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2016
Source: Union, The (Grass Valley, CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Union
Author: Alan Riquelmy


There's no reason someone would know the vehicle across the street is 
delivering medical marijuana.

Such deliveries, which happen in Nevada County, produce no strong 
odor like marijuana grows. They draw no increased traffic and lead to 
no formal complaints.

And then, once the transaction occurs, the vehicle is gone.

What remains are questions about the legality of delivering medical 
marijuana in a county that prohibits commercial cannabis and in 
cities that forbid dispensaries.

Stakeholders in the state's burgeoning medical marijuana industry 
have different opinions about the law and the delivery of medicinal 
cannabis. Authorities point to local ordinances restricting the 
practice, though they add they've taken a hands-off approach. 
Managers of collectives say they're within the law to deliver 
medicine to their members.

"It's a very complicated question," said Melissa Sanchez, an attorney 
who represents some Nevada County cannabis growers. "It's a big gray area."

Special delivery

Jeff Naughton, managing member of Tahoe Meds, operates his collective 
in the North Lake Tahoe area and Truckee. In operation for more than 
three years, Tahoe Meds has about 3,600 members.

The collective has no physical location.

"We have to deliver," Naughton said. "That's how we are compliant.

"We can do anything that any normal person can do when you're a 
member of a club or a private entity," he added.

All of Tahoe Meds' members lived, at least at some point, in the 
area. Leaving the region doesn't negate their membership. The 
collective can, and does, deliver to its members throughout the state.

Tahoe Meds delivers medical marijuana by car. Special ground shipping 
contracts are used to deliver to members outside of the region. 
Naughton advises against using the U.S. Postal Service for medicinal cannabis.

Naughton said his path to managing member of a collective began in 
his early 20s, when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Naughton refused to use medical marijuana, a decision he now regrets. 
He believes medical marijuana could have saved him some $700,000 in 
surgical bills and hospital stays.

"I was very anti-marijuana," he said. "I bought into the 'This is 
your brain on drugs.'"

Then, after one particular surgery, Naughton tried medical cannabis. 
It worked. Issues stemming from his ulcerative colitis recede after 
about 24 hours of use, he said.

Tahoe Meds is one of a handful of delivery services operating in the area.

Dillon, who declined to give his last name, is the manager of 
Cannabus, which is based in Nevada City. It delivers to members 
throughout Nevada County, including areas where authorities say it's 
forbidden. Dillon, however, said California law states that patients 
are allowed to get their medicine. He added that he respects local 
law, but questions how well it's defined.

"We try our best to comply with the ever-evolving stream of this 
industry," he added.

The law

The state Legislature last year passed the Medical Marijuana 
Regulation and Safety Act, or MMRSA, which creates new agencies and 
tasks existing ones to implement sweeping statewide regulations.

A key date in the new law is Jan. 1, 2018, when state officials 
should be prepared to issue permits for dispensaries. A dispensary 
must have both state and local permits to operate. Local 
jurisdictions can opt against issuing permits, which mean delivery 
services like Tahoe Meds and Cannabus would have to relocate or cease to exist.

According to Sanchez, a clean-up bill - AB 1575 - would require 
delivery services to have a fixed, physical office. That office 
wouldn't necessarily need to be open to the public.

"It's hard to regulate," Sanchez said of delivery services without a 
physical office. "You can't really tell where it is."

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a sponsor of AB 1575, said in a statement that 
his bill facilities the transition to a regulated market.

"AB 1575 recognizes the crucial role delivery plays in providing 
medical cannabis to patients by allowing state licensed delivery-only 
dispensaries," Bonta states.

Naughton likes MMRSA. He said he wants rules that are easy to follow.

He also wants a permit from Truckee. Naughton said he's spoken with 
town officials about it, though no movement has occurred.

Dillon, with Cannabus, said he'd relocate if Nevada City opting 
against issuing permits.

Both Naughton and Dillon said they pay taxes.

"If Nevada County says deliveries are illegal, that's fine," Dillon 
said. "We'll go pay our taxes somewhere else."

Add to the confusion that some local medical marijuana advocates say 
the county's new grow ordinance prohibits collectives. Patricia 
Smith, chairwoman of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe 
Access, said MMRSA allows only 100-square-foot personal grows. 
Anything over that requires a license.

Alison Barratt-Green, county counsel, said nothing in the county's 
ordinance prohibits collectives.

"We don't regulate who they're growing for," she added. "We only 
regulate, for the nuisance issue, size of grows and locations of grows."

Sanchez said the ordinance doesn't explicitly ban collectives, though 
it makes them seemingly impossible because of the plant limitations 
the county imposed.

Grows must be on the proper zoning. Larger plant numbers are allowed 
on bigger parcels, with the biggest being 25 plants on more than 20 acres.


According to Sheriff Keith Royal, delivering medical marijuana in the 
unincorporated part of Nevada County violates the county's marijuana 
ordinance. However, Royal noted that his office hasn't received 
complaints about deliveries.

"It hasn't been a big issue for us," he added. "It's flown low on the radar."

Grass Valley City Manager Bob Richardson said deliveries are 
prohibited in the city. Much like the unincorporated county, it's a non-issue.

"It's not something that we receive complaints about," Grass Valley 
Police Chief Alex Gammelgard said. "It would be complaint driven."

Tim Foley, Nevada City police chief, said his office has received no 
complaints about medical marijuana deliveries. Truckee Police Capt. 
Rob Leftwich said the same.

According to Leftwich, no crimes have stemmed from the delivery 
services. They pose no problem to the community, which has led 
authorities not to pursue them.

Police would closely examine the medical marijuana delivery services 
if authorities began to see crime connected to them.

"This is going to be a land-use issue for Truckee," Leftwich said.

Tony Lashbrook, Truckee town manager, said delivery services that 
have no physical office have no zoning requirement. The town doesn't 
have business licenses, meaning the service is unregulated in those respects.

Lashbrook deferred when asked if delivering medical marijuana is 
legal or if it warrants an arrest.

"That's a complicated question," he said.
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