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Pot Club May Leave Downtown Hayward


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The last pot club left in Hayward is getting booted from downtown, but owner Tom Lemos has found a new location he hopes to move into next month.

"We've located a place. We're working with the city," Lemos said. "It has to happen before the end of this month."

The Hayward City Council late last year gave Lemos three months to shut down his Foothill Boulevard dispensary and find a new place to operate. Within the next few weeks, the council must approve or reject his new location of choice.

"I'm certainly open to them finding a better place to do business," City Councilwoman Barbara Halliday said. "I think it needs to be in a place that's also fairly visible, for security reasons."

Halliday will come to the upcoming hearing on the Hayward Patients' Resource Center with a unique perspective. She was taking a tour inside the marijuana clinic when armed and masked robbers took over the club in August 2005.

"It really brought home the point to me that there is a potential for crime," Halliday said, speaking about the experience publicly for the first time last week. She said she still supports the clinic but wants to make sure it is sited appropriately.

The proposed new location, according to a letter the dispensary sent to city administrators several days ago, is also on Foothill Boulevard, but on a site about a mile north of downtown, near the border with Cherryland.

City officials, pointing to the cinema complex being built around the corner and other efforts at revitalization, said the clinic was no longer appropriate downtown.

The new property, 21618 Foothill Blvd., is a 1940s-built house across the street from a Taco Bell restaurant near Cotter Way.

Lemos said the old house is much roomier than the sliver of storefront space, between A and B streets, where the clinic has operated since 2003.

"We're reaching our limit," Lemos said. "I'm actually kind of glad the city is asking us to find a new place."

Lemos said his dispensary began accommodating a spike in clientele in December after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided and shut down another pot clinic, the Local Patients Cooperative, located just a block away.

Lemos and his clients have sought to distance themselves from the neighboring cooperative's operations style. Police officers who inspected Local Patients Cooperative last year had said it was keeping unacceptably large amounts of marijuana on the premises (the city has a 3-pound limit). Federal agents said the club's owners were making big bucks off the sales.

"When you see an armed guard outside and bullet-proof glass, there's something wrong," said Kenan Acampora, 42, a Pleasanton resident who said he avoided the raided clinic but visits the Lemos club regularly because he likes the professional atmosphere. "The good thing, especially for a guy like me, is I only buy small amounts."

Lemos said he has added security measures since the club was robbed twice in 2005, and hasn't had a problem since the second robbery – the one for which Halliday was present. Suspects in that robbery, who made off with less than $500 from the armed takeover, were arrested and prosecuted.

"Basically they had heard there was a club in Hayward and they came to rob it," Lemos said. "They didn't know about the limit. They didn't know about any of that stuff."

He added that he thought Halliday "kept an open mind" after the robbery.

"She's never held it against us," Lemos said.

Several patients lined up Friday outside the Patients' Resource Center before its 11 a.m. opening, several in button-down shirts and business attire. Each showed a state ID card before entering and each was checked by a guard with a metal-detecting wand.

"It's pretty much the only one I go to. I like it because it's small," said Joseph Stegner, 40, a San Leandro resident and former paramedic who uses marijuana for depression. "If I don't smoke, it's just too overwhelming."

Customers cited various medical conditions for visiting the clinic every week, such as aversions to traditional prescription pharmaceuticals.

Lemos said that while some clinics operate like a store, he operates like a pharmacy, with experienced employees offering consultations before selling any products.

Most of the marijuana is advertised at $15 per gram, and Lemos also sells cannabis-laced food products with names like Lemon Funk Cake and Furniture Fusion Carrot Cake.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Inside Bay Area
Author: Matt O'Brien
Contact: mattobrien@dailyreviewonline.com
Copyright: 2000-2006 ANG Newspapers
Website: Inside Bay Area - IBA - Tri-Valley Herald
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