Medical marijuana dispensary opens in Claremont

July 26, 2007

, Claremont Courier (CA)

Tuesday night’s council discussion on placing a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries was expected to be fairly routine. Several people had approached the city about opening such a business, according to the city staff report, and the city needed a moratorium in place to give time to craft appropriate regulations.

The council proceeded to pass its moratorium as expected, but Mr. Kruse said he has no intention of shutting down, and his medical marijuana dispensary is now open for business in Claremont.

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City staff is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Mr. Kruse’s establishment, deferring most questions to City Attorney Sonia Carvalho. Because the dispensary is currently operating without a business license, Ms. Carvalho said, the city can go to court to force him to shut down.

“We have not issued a business license to this operator, and that means that he currently operates one of these storefronts or cooperatives without a business license, and is in violation of our municipal code,” Ms. Carvahlo said.

The city will issue Mr. Kruse a notice that he needs to stop operating his business because of the code violation, City Manager Jeff Parker said, and if he does not, the city will “go into court as fast as we can on this to try to get an injunction,” he said.

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Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Kruse invited the COURIER to his medical marijuana dispensary—named Claremont All-Natural Nutrition Aids Buyers Information Service (CANNABIS)—for an interview and a photo shoot.

Approaching the front door of the business park’s suite 5, one business-operating necessity is notably absent—a sign. After a knock, Mr. Kruse swung the door open, removed a red lollipop from his mouth and greeted his visitors with a wide grin.

To say that his dispensary is sparely decorated would be an understatement.

There is only one painting or picture hanging from the wall—a painting of an old west saloon brawl—and two wide ceiling-high bookshelves are completely empty.

There is one pea-green loveseat, two small receptionist desks and 3 chairs.

A brand-new copy machine rests beside a desktop computer, and the copy machine box is being used as a TV stand.

One side room houses his marijuana products, and another room contains 13 small plants—with names such as “Cherry Bomb” and “Sour Diesel”—that are currently growing under a florescent light.

He explains his red lollipop: It’s called a couch pop, he said, and it has cannabis in it, so it has similar effects as marijuana. “Very tasty,” he said. “No medicine taste at all.”

Couch pops are just one of several items that he provides to the two patients for whom he serves as caregiver at his Claremont location. He has 5 additional patients at a dispensary in Canyon Country.

He also sells plant cuttings, edibles and traditional dried marijuana.

Mr. Kruse considers himself part of a larger medical marijuana movement, and advocates legalization of the drug. He is also passionate about what he says are the legitimate medical uses for the drug.

“I know that cancer, AIDS, and a significant number of other diseases affect the ability to take in nutrients, to nourish yourself,” he said.  “The reason it does this is that the opiates and pills you have to take for the pain disrupt your stomach and destroy your liver. Radiation therapy causes severe nausea. Marijuana alleviates the nausea. It allows you to eat, and it allows you to keep the food down.

“That is why I am an all-natural nutrition aid. It aids in the intake of nutrition by allowing them to keep the food down. It also allows people to work. Imagine if you wake up every morning with a stomach that just is in spasms, or is nauseated, or makes you feel as if you just can’t get on with your business. And then after whatever, a couple of minutes, you feel much more at ease and able to do whatever you need to. And you can conduct your business.”

Mr. Kruse is also a licensed medical marijuana user. He medicates himself with the drug to treat nausea and pain, he said.

“People don’t know how sick I am,” he said. “I was on disability, federal disability, for a few years. And now I’m back at work doing things, and I’m no longer on federal disability.”

By opening his facility without a business license, and sneaking its opening date in less than two weeks before the city passed its moratorium, Mr. Kruse is bracing for a legal fight.

He has been in contact with attorneys, he said, and has had previous run-ins with unwelcoming cities and has learned much from his past legal battles.

He is confident that he conducted the process of opening the business in Claremont properly, by giving the city 45 days to respond to his request for a business license. After the 45 days passed, he opened his business with the belief that because such establishments are legal within the state of California, he has the right to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the absence of city regulations.

“I have a defense against every one of their arguments,” he said.

California voters approved the legalization of marijuana for medical use in 1996, as Prop. 215 is intended to shield medical marijuana users from federal prosecution.

However, the federal government does not recognize any appropriate legal use of the drug, and several California cities have successfully fought to keep out medical marijuana dispensaries such as Mr. Kruse’s.

One city in the midst of a legal battle over an existing medical marijuana dispensary is Corona, whose city attorney is the same as Claremont’s—Sonia Carvahlo of the Best, Best and Krieger law firm.

At the mention of Ms. Carvahlo’s name, the pitch in Mr. Kruse’s voice rose, and he spoke louder.

“That’s why I’m here, OK,” he said. “Best, Best and Krieger, they are harassing [the operator of the dispensary] over in Corona. They have no right to harass him. They should have learned from harassing him, but they don’t wish to learn.

“I am here basically in sympathy of him. I looked it up, I found this place has the same attorney—that’s why I gave them 45 days notice. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to see if this attorney knows what she’s doing. I’m going to give them 45 days notice, I’m going to tell them I’m doing the exact same thing as the guy over there,’ and see what she does to protect this city. She did nothing for 45 days, that’s what she did.”

Ms. Carvahlo did not return COURIER phone messages before deadline.

Mr. Kruse continued: “I came here because this city is on the border of San Bernardino [County], this place is close to my house, and this city’s attorney is the same city attorney in Corona, and I’m pretty sure she is going to learn,” he said. “I was surprised [Tuesday] night when I heard her talk. I realized that she isn’t going to learn from her mistake in Corona, that she’s going to pull the same mistake here.”

However, no action by the city can be prompted by the city attorney alone. It will be the council’s decision whether it wants to fight Mr. Kruse.

Mayor Peter Yao said Wednesday in a phone interview that at the moment he is happy leaving Mr. Kruse alone, though any complaint from a resident about the establishment should be met with strident action from the city.

“If a citizen brings it to our attention, then somebody has made the decision for us, and we will definitely address it,” he said. “ … If there is a complaint, then we have no choice but to act on it.”

For more information on CANNABIS, Claremont’s newly opened medical marijuana dispensary, contact Mr. Kruse at 399-9420, or visit the location at 630 S. Indian Hill Blvd., Ste. 5. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day of the week but Sunday, Mr. Kruse said.

“I expect to have a lot of Claremont patients,” he said.



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