Mon09012014

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Medical marijuana rides into LA on questionable conveyances

Photo Photos By Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Marshall Barker, above, a Buddy’s Cannabis employee in San Jose, inspects a recent shipment of marijuana.

Despite city bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, the pot market is thriving in Silicon Valley. Ever-expanding collectives are literally driving through loopholes, using delivery services to provide members with their medicine – a phenomenon that has arrived in Los Altos.

Shade of Green Collective (SoGC), founded by seven medical cannabis patients in their mid-20s, has 100 members – two from Los Altos. But SoGC is just one of several independent delivery services based in Santa Clara County that have declined to release information on their clients.

Eight mobile cannabis businesses advertise with WeedMaps.com, a commercial listing of dispensaries, and another 18 enlisted as members of California NORML, a non-profit organization devoted to legalizing marijuana. In addition, there are unlisted services that rely solely on word-of-mouth advertising and brick-and-mortar stores that offer delivery.

Of the latter, 20 percent of Buddy’s Cannabis’ 1,200-member collective are locals, said owner Matt Lucero.

According to Los Altos police, however, such transactions violate city code. Two ordinan-ces, passed Dec. 8 by a 4-0 Los Altos City Council vote, prohibit the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. The regulation defines a dispensary as “any facility or location, whether fixed or mobile” distributing medical cannabis to eligible patients.

“If they’re making deliveries in Los Altos, then that would be a business transaction,” Police Capt. Andy Galea said. “Someone with the intent to come into Los Altos to deliver medical marijuana would clearly be in violation of the city ordinance.”

Galea said state laws – under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420) – prevent cities from prosecuting individual use of medical cannabis but not distribution. Cities retain the authority to determine how land is used.

While Galea said city regulations clearly restrict delivery services as well as storefronts, many mobile dispensaries are not aware that they’re breaking the law.

“We wanted to do everything the right way,” said Devin Baggett, a SoGC founder. “So we were patient, we did our research (and) we waited for other organizations to see how they fared in the industry.”

Baggett said he had been interested in gathering a collective since 2004, but SoGC did not begin official plans for its symbolic April 20 opening until last year.

A majority of delivery services, whether independent or attached to a stationary dispensary, follow the conservative route, double- and triple-checking business operations to cover every gray area in state and city laws.

Even Lucero, who gained notoriety for knowingly opening shop in Sunnyvale in violation of city ordinances, adopted a more cautious approach at his new location in San Jose, the third move in just four months. Lucero verifies doctors’ recommendations by calling both the doctors’ offices and the California Medical Board. Buddy’s limits purchases to 0.02 grams over a seven-day period.

Delivery-service owners are not the only ones confused. Medical marijuana lawyers and city attorneys also find it difficult to give a definite answer regarding the legality of these mobile pot shops.

Baggett said the lawyers they consulted could not agree, and Los Altos City Attorney Jolie Houston said she wasn’t certain if the ordinance included delivery services based outside the city.

“We have not banned delivery services,” Houston said of Los Altos.

Independent delivery services may be short-lived, however, said Lauren Vazquez, county representative for Americans for Safe Access, the largest national membership of medical marijuana supporters.

“Deliveries are a compromise,” Vazquez said. “It’s not really what patients want. It’s harder to check out the collection, (and) you’re stuck with what they bring to your house.”

She predicted that such medical marijuana sources would naturally take a backseat to storefronts once they become legalized.

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