Second Santa Cruz medical pot shop on tap

March 13, 2006

Shanna McCordat, Santa Cruz Sentinel

The city is likely to land a second medical pot shop soon, and medical marijuana supporters say the addition will benefit thousands of county users through greater access, better prices and higher quality.

K.E. Sampson, a Corralitos resident and medical marijuana patient of five years, has submitted an application to turn an empty two-story office building on Limekiln Street into The Santa Cruz Patient Collective in the city's Harvey West industrial area.

Sampson said he plans to run the collective like Greenway Compassionate Relief Inc., the city's first medical marijuana dispensary, which opened on DuBois Street in September.

"Healthy competition will ensure the best prices as well as the best quality," Sampson, 44, said. "My forte will be providing the highest quality of organic marijuana I can come across."

With an estimated 3,000 medical marijuana patients in Santa Cruz County and few outlets to access the drug legally, proponents say two dispensaries within blocks of each other will keep users from having to drive to San Francisco and Oakland to buy the drug.

The city, with a national reputation of looking kindly on marijuana use, has allowed medical marijuana dispensaries since 2001. However, strict rules surrounding location and unwilling landlords have kept such businesses from starting.

City rules for medical pot shops forbid use of the drug on the property, require a doctor's note or county-issued medical marijuana card to purchase the drug and mandate on-site security guards. No such business can be within 600 feet of a park or school.

Greenway owner Lisa Molyneux worked with the city for more than a year before obtaining the special-use permits necessary to open. Since opening, Greenway has drawn "not one complaint" from the public or police, city planner Mike Ferry said.

Molyneux said Greenway employs 12 people and has a database of about 2,500 medical marijuana patients. The dispensary, she said, continues to grow every day, including clients from outside the county.

"If the city approves Sampson's application," Molyneux said, "it'll be a benefit to the movement more than anything else."

Sampson, who previously owned a trucking company in Watsonville, said he suffered a head injury 12 years ago that left him in a coma for three months and led to his use of the drug. Sampson said he slipped while trying to avoid a deep mud puddle, fell back and struck his head on a step of the truck.

"They found me floating face up a couple hours later," he said.

It took years to regain his ability to walk and talk normally again, he said.

"Ironically, I didn't gain much of anything until I found medical marijuana," Sampson said. "It alleviated my migraines and allowed my body to start working again."

While state voters approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons by passing Proposition 215 in 1996, federal authorities have made it clear that U.S. drug laws prohibiting possession, distribution and use of marijuana will be enforced regardless of California law.

Marijuana critics say there is no medicinal benefits from the drug, and its harmful effects are often under-represented.

Ferry said he expects the city Planning Commission to hear Sampson's medical marijuana dispensary plans at its April 6 meeting. Planning staff, he said, will likely recommend approval.

No City Council approval is necessary, he said.

Contact Shanna McCordat

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