West Slope: Cameron Park pot shop owner won't close without a fight

January 02, 2008

Ken Paglia, Mountain Democrat (CA)

A Cameron Park medical marijuana dealer will be appealing El Dorado County's refusal to renew his business license.

Matt Vaughn, CEO of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County, has been in business since 2004. MMCA, a non-profit, provides marijuana to patients eligible under Prop. 215, the 1996 voter initiative that allows Californians with a doctor's recommendation to possess the drug.


His first business license was approved in August 2004 under the business description "Public information and implementation of the California Health and Safety Code," said Cherie Raffety, El Dorado County treasurer and tax collector, and whose agency refused his request to renew his business license.

Vaughn then moved his business and applied for another license, which was approved under the description, "Patient support group." The county Planning Commission approved it on the condition that it was a medical referral business only, that there would be no medical purchasing and 'no dispensing of medical services, prescriptions or drugs on site,' said Raffety.

In a conversation with the Mountain Democrat, Vaughn said of the latter condition, "I kind of just ignored them saying that. That is not for them to legally say."

So for four years under Vaughn's direction the MMCA dispensed marijuana, although he said the business is different from a dispensary.

"The function of a 'dispensary' is as simple as it sounds, it is a sales outlet," Vaughn writes on the MMCA Web site. "The Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County, MMCA, is a non-profit corporation founded by Matt Vaughn of Placerville, CA, to provide safe and anonymous patient support for all aspects of medical marijuana."

But in November his application to renew his business license was refused. In the letter informing Vaughn of the refusal a manager from the Treasurer and Tax Collector's Office cited as reasons for the refusal the condition that no dispensing take place, and that "dispensing marijuana is a violation of federal law."

Sylvia Earl, assistant treasurer tax collector, told the Democrat, "The application four years ago was not clear as to what his intentions were ... Recently we had some other applications for dispensaries and people kept saying 'There's one in Cameron Park.' We did an audit, found the MMCA Website and determined that they were dispensing marijuana."

Earl said the rules governing businesses in the county are different from in the city, which is why there is a dispensary in Placerville that is in business.

The county Board of Supervisors will hear Vaughn's appeal on Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting chambers at 330 Fair Lane in Placerville.

Vaughn, who is still open for business at least through the 8th, said he is "getting the paperwork together to sue them if they go the wrong way on that.'"

In a letter to the county giving notice of his appeal, Vaughn wrote, "California's courts have consistently ruled that local governing agencies do not have the authority to interpret and enforce federal law. If MMCA were in violation of federal law, it would be the duty of federal authorities to enforce federal law and issue a notice of violation. At that point, the county has the right to deny a business license."

The MMCA can be found online at http://www.marijuanacaregivers.org/ or reached by phone at 677-5362.

Ken Paglia can be reached at kpaglia@mtdemocrat.net or at (530) 344-5071.


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