Ethnobotanica representative Stephanie Kiel took a deep breath as she walked outside of the South County Advisory Council (SCAC) meeting on Feb. 24.
“That was rough,” she said.
- PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
- FACING OPPOSITION: Ethnobotanica financial officer Stephanie Kiel, seen here during the Feb. 24 SCAC meeting, said she thinks there are many misconceptions about dispensaries, including increased crime concerns and the notion that the drug isn’t really used for medical purposes.
Kiel had just spent an hour and a half listening to comments and fielding questions from council members and Nipomo community members about a proposed Ethnobotanica brick-and-mortar medical marijuana dispensary on Hutton Road.
The vote didn’t go the way of the dispensary, and advisory council members opted 8-2 not to recommend approval of the project to the county’s governing bodies. This is the fourth attempt to give brick-and-mortar a try in SLO County since a Morro Bay dispensary was raided by federal agents in 2006.
SLO County District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton spoke at the meeting, saying she expected the decision to come before the county’s Planning Commission in May, and then be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
“In this county, we haven’t permitted one dispensary, and we have never been sued,” Compton said. “Not saying that’s the route we should take; just giving you some history.”
Ethnobotanica is currently a mobile dispensary operation based in Watsonville, delivering medical marijuana to patients all over the Central Coast. Kiel said they make about 280 deliveries per week in SLO County.
“The status quo right now is to just sweep it under the rug, pretend it’s not there, and I think it’s time,” Kiel said. “We urge you to recommend approval of this project; we will not disappoint you.”
Most of the public comments were negative, angry, and/or condescending about the idea of having a physical, stationary pot dispensary near the intersection of highways 101 and 166, just north of the Santa Maria Bridge.
“They’re here to make money, and they’re here to promote something, and I don’t think it’s good for our youth,” Nipomo resident Bud Burgess said during the meeting. “Why do they always try to bring this stuff to Nipomo?”
Major sticking points for council members included security and the location of the facility.
For security purposes, the facility would have several alarmed, electronically locked doors that have to be opened with a key card; a security guard; security glass; panic buttons; and 24-7 surveillance. But because of the out-of-the way location on Hutton Road, council members were concerned about police response time to the facility. The closest sheriff sub-stations are in Oceano and Orcutt.
As far as location goes, SLO County has an ordinance governing brick-and-mortar dispensaries already in place. Airlin Singewald, a county planner working on the project, said those regulations specify where a dispensary would be allowed to set up shop—for example, not within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, or daycare facilities.
“There are very few locations in the county that meet the narrow parameters of the ordinance, and this happens to be one of them,” Singewald said during the meeting.