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Store For Medical Pot Opens In Roseville

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Roseville, CA -- A medical marijuana store has quietly opened its doors in
Roseville, just weeks after a new law took effect permitting qualified
patients and caregivers to cultivate the plant. Owner Richard Marino and
his friends held a small christening ceremony Jan. 22 inside the freshly
painted, sparsely furnished storefront that now houses Capitol
Compassionate Care.

"People need a safe environment where they can get their medical
marijuana, so they don't have to get it on the streets, and they can get
quality for a reasonable price," Marino said. "Hopefully, this can cut
down on street trafficking."

But whether the new "cannabis club" will be allowed to remain open may
depend on which law-enforcement agency is looking at it.

Roseville Police Chief Joel Neves said Marino can operate as long as he
complies with laws derived from Proposition 215, which was approved by
voters in 1996 to permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"Clearly, the law passed by the voters allows this type of business,"
Neves said. "These businesses exist throughout the state."

But Richard Meyer, a special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration in San Francisco, indicated the Roseville club could have a
short run.

"Federal law is clear about marijuana: It is illegal to cultivate, possess
or distribute it," Meyer said. "So if that club is selling marijuana, it's
going to be in violation of federal law.

"Just because (the Roseville club) is in operation doesn't mean it's
legitimate or that we condone it. They should not be surprised if one day
we show up with a warrant at their door."

Meyer said closing cannabis clubs has been difficult because of staff
shortages.

"Right now, our number one priority in California is methamphetamines," he
said.

The Placer County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on
Marino's business.

Advocates of medical marijuana were pleased that Marino had opened his
business.

Dale Gieringer, coordinator for the California chapter of the National
Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, "That's good news for
people in the foothills area."

"There are a lot of cannabis facilities in the state, but right now they
are heavily concentrated in the Bay Area," he said. "I'm sure many people
will be pleased to drive a shorter distance now."

Sacramento-area users of medicinal marijuana have generally relied on
underground "delivery services." The services are listed on NORML's Web
site.

Marino, a 50-year-old former electrician, said he drove throughout Yolo,
Sacramento and Placer counties for months before discovering the little
storefront at 327 Lincoln St. in historic Roseville.

He said he talked to police, the city attorney and the district attorney
before applying for and receiving a business license.

On Friday, a barely perceptible perfume of marijuana hovered in the air of
the mostly empty store.

On one wall, prices and varieties of marijuana were listed on a white
board: Romulan -- $320 an ounce; White Rhino -- $300 an ounce; Acapulco
Gold -- $275 an ounce; and Placer Gold -- just $200 an ounce.

Marino explained the differences -- some are uplifting, some sedative,
some grown indoors, some outside. He grows some of the plants himself and
buys the remainder from friends.

Marijuana has been used for people who have suffered from glaucoma or who
have undergone chemotherapy or advanced HIV treatment.

Marino just sells pre-measured plastic bags, but said he hopes eventually
to offer people starter plants and classes on how to grow their own.
Public reaction to his endeavor has been positive, he said.

"They're happy that I'm here -- that somebody's finally taking a chance,"
he said. "With any business, you just open the door, step out there and
see if it'll fly. And hopefully, this will fly."

Marino became interested in medicinal marijuana about a decade ago, after
a series of automobile and workplace accidents -- and corresponding back
and neck surgeries -- left him in increasingly debilitating pain.

Doctors prescribed strong painkillers and sleeping pills that gave Marino
severe allergic reactions and left him dazed. Without the pills, his pain
was shooting, intense, constant and aggravating, he said.

Then a friend recommended Marino try marijuana.

"The short-term memory effect cuts that pain, breaks it into increments so
you're not dealing with pain constantly," he said.

About two years ago, Marino, a resident of Rancho Cordova, decided he
wanted to share the abundance of relief he had discovered with others in
the region.

Senate Bill 420, which went into effect Jan. 1 and calls for identity
cards for qualified patients and caregivers and also allows them to
collectively cultivate marijuana, hadn't been proposed yet, but Marino was
ready to take a chance.

"I started looking for a place to rent," he said. "About 20 places said
they'd rent, then the next morning would call and say they couldn't rent."

While building owners were often sympathetic, their lawyers and insurers
were not. Neither, it seemed, were the Realtors who wouldn't return
Marino's calls.

In the first week his shop has been open -- the hours are 10 a.m. to 8
p.m. daily -- clients have been relatively few but, he said, enthusiastic.

"I'd like to open another in Sacramento," he said. "I really think this is
what's needed."

Marino's store is not the first try at establishing a marijuana
distribution center in the region under Proposition 215. A cannabis club
in Citrus Heights was shut down last year by law enforcement officials,
and the owners of FloraCare were arrested and convicted for conspiracy to
sell marijuana.

In El Dorado County, a group led by a physician is working with
authorities to establish a collective garden to grow marijuana for medical
purposes.

Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, who authored SB 420, which would make
the garden possible, has taken the position that medical marijuana is not
addictive.


Author: Art Campos, and Jocelyn Wiener
Source: Sacramento Bee
Contact: opinion@sacbee.com
Website: Northern California Breaking News, Sports & Crime | The Sacramento Bee
Pubdate: Saturday, January 31, 2004