Pot shop is nipped in the bud

November 16, 2004

George Boardman, The Union

Just as it was getting ready to open for business Monday, a medicinal marijuana store at the old Cherry Creek mini-mart on Highway 49 was closed down by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Keith Royal said his officers notified the couple operating the store that they didn’t have the proper use permit, and the officers persuaded them to consult an attorney.

The store came to the attention of neighbors when they received fliers telling them the store would be selling what Royal called starter plants and marijuana buds. The flier also advertised a “smoking room” at the business.

“The neighbors were very concerned and called my office,” Royal said.

The building, which has been vacant for several years and is now surrounded by a chain-link fence, has a highway commercial business permit. Royal told the couple, whose names he did not release, that medical marijuana sales didn’t fit the definition.

The sheriff had other problems with the store at Cherry Creek Road and Highway 49. “It is a bus stop for kids,” he said. “I’m also concerned about people smoking and then driving.”

Randy Wilson, county planning director, said a woman named Keely Johnson had phoned to inquire about a business permit for the location.

“The inquiry was about selling art, books and herbs,” he said. “They never told us the herb was marijuana.”

But no one ever formerly applied for a permit, he said. “They would need a permit from this office to open.”

Ferguson said Tuesday no one connected with the store approached his office about opening for business. “What I know about it, I’m getting third-hand,” he said.

But the prosecutor made it clear the business owners would have a difficult time convincing him that they meet the statutory definition for a “primary caregiver.”

“The general policy boils down to whether or not they meet the definition of a primary caregiver,” Ferguson said. “There’s no real published appellate opinion that defines what a primary caregiver is.”

He said the definition established by the passage of state Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative, is ambiguous.

“In my opinion, they twisted the definition of primary caregiver beyond the definition of what the voters understood it to be when they passed this proposition,” Ferguson said.

Royal made it clear the operators wouldn’t receive a friendly welcome if they try again to open the store.

“I’m against having a store in the community,” he said. “We don’t support these types of establishments. ... I’m going to take action to close them.”

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What’s the law?

California’s Proposition 215 allows marijuana to be grown and possessed — but not sold — if the marijuana is recommended by a doctor.

Nevada County permits medicinal growers a maximum of two pounds a year. Medicinal growers can’t sell excess amounts to others, or purchase marijuana for their medical needs.

Some counties, such as nearby Placer, have allowed medicinal marijuana shops, but they can still be targeted by federal agents.



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