CA: This ‘Farmer’s Market’ Wasn’t Your Normal Kale Stand. Now The City Wants To Shut It Down

Photo Credit: Ryan Lillis

Just a few blocks from where you can buy cage-free eggs and organic kale every Saturday morning at the Midtown Farmer’s Market, another market – allegedly illicit – has been operating for several weeks in Sacramento.

Instead of fruits and veggies, the operators of the 11:30 Club on 26th Street in midtown have been illegally selling marijuana out of a “farmer’s market,” according to a civil complaint filed May 10 in Sacramento Superior Court by the city of Sacramento.

The city attorney alleged the operators of the club have been selling cannabis – and allowing it to be consumed on-site during events – without a city permit since at least March, causing a neighborhood nuisance.

On Thursday, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the club, prohibiting its owners from holding more marijuana events. If they do, the operators could be arrested for violating a court order, City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said. The operators are also facing fines of up to $25,000.

“They just took it upon themselves and said, ‘We’re going to have this here,’” Wood said. “They never filed an application (for a permit). They’re not meeting any of our regulations.”

William Hennessee, an operator of the facility, said the club only provides marijuana to people cleared to purchase medical marijuana and “is not a recreational use facility in any way, shape or form.”

Hennessee said the club would not hold an event at the 26th Street location while the restraining order is in effect, but said he did organize an event Thursday night at a different location that was attended by 500 people. He said he would hold other “pop-up” events in Sacramento at locations that he will provide only to his club’s 1,000 members.

“I’m trying to provide a location that is safe for patients besides being forced to smoke in our houses where our children watch and consume secondhand smoke,” he said.

Hennessee said his club objects to recreational use of marijuana and hopes the city one day allows for on-site consumption of marijuana at cannabis lounges like those in San Francisco.

“We’re supposed to be a farm-to-fork capital but I guess that only applies to fruits and vegetables,” he said.

As City Hall begins maneuvering the evolving world of cannabis regulations, public events where the product is sold and consumed have become a new issue.

The City Council approved a two-day festival and concert at Cal Expo this month that was run by industry magazine High Times. The event was attended by thousands and was the first permitted event for on-site consumption in California since recreational use of marijuana became legal.

What has been happening at the 11:30 Club was not legal, authorities said.

From the street, the 11:30 Club looks like any other warehouse nestled against the railroad tracks on the northern edge of midtown. A fence covered in a black tarp blocks the main entrance at the end of 26th Street. There’s a mailbox, “Private Property” sign and dumpster out front. Next door is another industrial-looking building also blocked by a chain link fence.

Court documents and testimony by police officers and neighbors allege the property was anything but ordinary.

An undercover police officer declared in court documents that he attended an event at the club on May 3.

The cop said he saw more than a dozen “popup style canopies” with tables containing marijuana products. There was a BBQ smoke pit and “several individuals that appeared to be smoking from a glass bong and several smoking from blunts (marijuana cigarettes),” the officer told city attorneys, according to his declaration. The officer also bought a half-ounce of weed for $50 and “marijuana infused cupcakes.”

The club has attracted speeding vehicles, loud gatherings and loitering, neighbors told the city.

One nearby resident told the city he saw a line of people one block long waiting to get into the 11:30 Club on March 22. “Many of these people were consuming cannabis in public,” the resident said, according to a declaration of his statements filed in court.

Another resident said she walked to the club during an event on March 31 and was told there would be gatherings three to four times a week. The organizers told her “there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” according to court files.