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First County-Permitted Pot Shop to Open in El Cajon

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The medical marijuana cooperative that closed its doors in Fallbrook last year is expected to reopen next month in a new East County location, shop's owner Bob Riedel said.

Mother Earth's Alternative Healing Cooperative Inc., a medical marijuana dispensary, was closed Feb. 5, 2010, because it didn't have a permit to operate in San Diego County.

The new cooperative is expected to be the first to open in the unincorporated part of the county under the strict rules adopted by the Board of Supervisors in June 2010.

The ordinance prohibits co-ops from operating within 1,000 feet of a long list places, such as parks, churches, residences, schools, libraries and other medical marijuana facilities.

At the time the county adopted the ordinance, medical marijuana advocates said the restrictions were a de facto ban on cooperatives.

County officials sued the state in 2006, arguing that the federal law that makes marijuana illegal should trump the 1996 passage of state Proposition 215, which legalized pot for patients with a doctor's recommendation.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from San Diego and San Bernardino counties, effectively ending the suit.

Riedel, of Fallbrook, who is spearheading the effort to open the new location, said the shop will fill a critical need in the community.

"I don't even know to describe how huge this is for the people that need this medicine," Riedel said Monday.

Authorities, including the Sheriff's Department, have been helpful in his quest to open the new building, he said.

"Finding the location was the hardest part," he said.

The building, at 8157 Wing Ave. in an unincorporated area of El Cajon near Gillespie Field, is being transformed from a cabinet shop to a medical marijuana facility expected to open July 4, Riedel said.

He declined to say how much has been spent on the project or who is funding it. Earlier this year, the supervisors approved an $11,000 annual fee to operate medical pot shops.

When it's complete, the 15,000-square-foot building will include a small cultivation area, a dispensing area and meeting space for the East County Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy organization.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, whose district includes the area where the cooperative will be, said she was disappointed the shop was opening.

"The county created an ordinance designed to balance the rights of families that don't want dispensaries in their neighborhood and patients that use the marijuana," Jacob said in a written statement. "If I had my way, all prescriptions, including medical marijuana, would be supplied by actual pharmacies only, not single-product dispensaries. But the state initiative process, the state Legislature and the courts have seen to it that that option is unavailable to local governments."

North County Supervisor Bill Horn said he opposes medical marijuana, but the county is obligated to follow state law.

"I have always maintained that federal law makes the cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana for any purpose illegal," Horn said in a written statement. "The county was unsuccessful in challenging the state law. Since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the county is in full compliance with the law even though many so-called marijuana cooperatives continue to operate outside the law."

In April, the county issued a building permit for the new facility, according to the county's Department of Planning and Land Use.

The permit is not yet final, according to county officials.

The building must still go through a final inspection before it can be declared ready for use, said Gig Conaughton, a spokesman for the county.

The Sheriff's Department must also issue an operating certificate before it can open, he said.

Riedel said he is confident that the facility will pass the final inspection and open to its members on time.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: nctimes.com
Author: Edward Sifuentes
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: North County Times
Website: First county-permitted pot shop to open in El Cajon
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