Long Beach Marijuana Law Starts Clock Ticking On Collectives

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Jim Finnel

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At the One Evol -- that's "love" spelled backwards -- Beach Club, manager Matthew Abrams said the medical marijuana collective is pretty much ready to comply with Long Beach's new marijuana law, which goes into effect today.

A video security system is in place, much of the marijuana the collective provides is grown on site, and the shop at 2767 E. Broadway is on a business corridor that is among the few locations in Long Beach where collectives are allowed.

"I feel like we've met everything I've read in the ordinance so far, except maybe if they have some ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues," Abrams said. "We're trying to square those away."

Abrams and Long Beach's other collectives -- the city has an estimated 75 to 85 - still have some time to meet the new ordinance's guidelines and apply for permits -- 120 days, to be exact. But that four-month window will be closing fast, and many collectives are in a race against time in more ways than one.

Sierra Serhan, operator of the Belmont Shore Natural Care collective on Second Street, has been meeting with an electrician so she can start figuring out what it will take to grow marijuana on site. Under the new ordinance, all marijuana dispensed by local collectives must be grown in Long Beach, either at the collective itself or at a separate cultivation site that must meet the same guidelines.

Abrams' brother, Jay, who helps runs the collective, estimated that it cost One Evol at least $30,000 to set up its growing operation. Even with such an investment, the brothers said they may have to open up a separate cultivation site in Long Beach to meet their patients' needs.

Most Long Beach collectives buy marijuana from outside the city -- for much of California, Humboldt County in the north is the chief supplier. After the 120-day permitting period, the collectives get a second 120-day grace period only for the cultivation rule so that they have time to grow the plants that their patients need -- then no more imported pot will be allowed.

"It's not going to be easy," Serhan said. "But at least I have guidelines now."

Race between collectives

Across the street from One Evol, another medical marijuana collective, Shh, was installing a security video system on Friday as it too prepared for the ordinance. Like Serhan's collective, Shh must start from scratch to cultivate marijuana on site.

Yet Shh has another challenge. Because collectives aren't allowed within 1,000 feet of one another, either Shh or One Evol will likely be forced to close or relocate. Many collective operators don't seem to understand exactly how that will work.

"I don't know if it's going to come down to a toss of a coin or what," Shh security guard Ernest Thornton said.

Not quite. It appears to be more like a race, and there is no second-place trophy.

"Once an applicant is permitted, then the 1,000-foot buffer starts," said Erik Sund, the city's business relations manager who is overseeing the permit process.

Most of Long Beach is off-limits to the collectives because the law says that they can't be in residential areas, and they must be 1,000 feet from elementary and junior high schools and 1,500 feet from high schools. That leaves only pieces of a few business corridors, industrial areas such as the Port of Long Beach, and institutional properties, at least technically - although it's hard to imagine Cal State Long Beach allowing a medical marijuana collective on its campus.

The jury is still out on a few other parts of the city, those areas that are considered planned development zones. Sund said whether collectives are allowed there will be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on what kind of projects or zoning changes may be planned for the area.

When the City Council approved the law in March, it added the 1,000-foot buffer between collectives to ensure they don't proliferate in any one neighborhood.

David Sharp, who operates Ballast Collective, 501 E. Broadway, said the law is too strict.

"I anticipate that many collectives will indeed have to close," Sharp said. "Basically, they've set you up to fail. They've created a map where no one can exist."

Among the ordinance's other requirements - marijuana can't be smoked or ingested at the collectives, paraphernalia can't be sold, ventilation systems must be used to prevent the smell from disturbing neighbors, marijuana-laced foods must be produced by a commercial kitchen, and the collectives can only operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sund conceded the city is a little behind in putting together the permit process and fee schedule for the collectives. He said he will take a plan to the council for approval May 18, and then the city will reach out to the collectives to ensure they know what is required of them.

"Because the ordinance is so complex and there's a lot of different nuances to it, we're being very cautious," Sund said.

With many nuances, many different departments have their hands in the medical marijuana law - health, zoning, building, police, fire and business licensing departments will all have to sign off on the collectives' permits.

"The initial process is going to be very, very time-consuming for a number of departments," Sund said.

Neighbors relieved

Neighbors of the collectives say the effort is worth it.

On that Broadway business corridor block that has two collectives - One Evol and Shh - some neighboring business owners said they are happy to see the city implement rules for the operations.

Dorian Bolick, who owns the Red Door Living furniture and interior design shop, said that while he supports patients' right to access medical marijuana, he didn't like seeing collectives pop up all over the place without some rules.

"What I was opposed to was just this free-for-all, gold rush mentality," Bolick said.

While Bolick said that Gallagher's Pub & Grill, which is just a couple of doors down from One Evol, creates more disturbances than he's ever seen with the collectives, he is glad that the city isn't allowing them to cluster in a single area.

That would be bad for business, he said.

"There's still a perception that it's a drug and it cheapens the neighborhood," Bolick said.

Julian Lopez, who owns Hilo clothing in that same block, said he too agreed with the 1,000-foot buffer between collectives. He said he's worried about the crime they may attract.

On April 19, a medical marijuana patient was shot in an alley behind a Naples collective after dropping off pot cookies for other patients.

"As a business owner, it does worry me that, what type of people who are not legitimately taking it (medical marijuana) are coming into those places," Lopez said.

Other business owners or employees in the area complained about the strong marijuana smell emanating from the collectives or about well- medicated patients occasionally wandering into a nearby business and acting oddly.

David Galindo, who owns David Galindo Home next door to One Evol, said he supports the 1,000-foot distance between collectives, but said he hasn't had any problems with them. He noted that if the collectives weren't around, their sites might just be empty storefronts otherwise.

"If they're good neighbors, if they maintain their storefront, then they can go about their business," Galindo said.


NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: presstelegram.com
Author: Paul Eakins
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Newspaper group
Contact: paul.eakins@presstelegram.com
Website: Long Beach marijuana law starts clock ticking on collectives - Press-Telegram

• Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article