Since the federal raid of a Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary in 2006, attempts to permit storefront dispensaries in Nipomo, Oceano, Guadalupe, and Orcutt have failed, and several incorporated cities in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have outlawed them.
Now, Ethnobotanica Patients Cooperative, a mobile dispensary—potdeli.org—operating out of Watsonville to deliver in Monterey and SLO counties, is going to give that storefront dispensary idea a try. Owner Stephanie Kiel gave a brief presentation about the company’s application to members of the South County Advisory Council’s Land Use Committee on Feb. 9.
“I think it’s time,” Kiel told the committee. “We’re feeling really confident.”
The dispensary is proposed for a 2.5-acre location on Hutton Road in Nipomo near highways 101 and 166, just one exit north of the Santa Maria River Bridge. And although the committee acts solely in an advisory role to the council, members had plenty of comments and questions for Kiel.
Why make the jump from mobile dispensary to having a storefront?
“This is going to sound funny, but we have a desire to be regulated and taxed,” she said in response. “Our goal is to make sure that everybody that needs access to this medication has safe access to it.”
Kiel said there are 20 to 30 semi- or unregulated mobile dispensaries in SLO County that currently provide medical marijuana to patients. The mobile business doesn’t receive a specific sort of license and inhabits this gray area of commerce.
“We think it should be more than that,” she said, adding that sales taxes on store purchases could amount to a significant portion of money for the county. Ethnobotanica anticipates that sales could be anywhere from $8 million a year—because it straddles two counties without storefront dispensaries—to $2.5 million to $3 million a year, should another storefront open in either county.
The more pressing questions from the committee, though, had to do with federal and state laws, crime rates, potential THC overdoses, the cash nature of the medical marijuana business, and security. Committee chair Istar Holiday advised Ethnobotanica to be prepared to answer questions on all of those subjects in two weeks at the South County Advisory Council meeting.
Holiday mentioned the significance of gang activity in Santa Maria and Nipomo, and asked if security measures for the storefront involved a plan against an “organized attack on the dispensary during business hours.” Although there are plans for a security guard on premises during business hours, 24-hour video surveillance, electronic key card entry to the facility, and special glass doors that are near-impossible to break, Ethnobotanica didn’t have a specific plan in place for the kind of attack Holiday described.
“There are concerns,” Holiday said.
The matter will go before the council at its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 23, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Nipomo Community Services District building.