Sai Center Saga Gets Stranger Still – October 17, 2011

Over the past month, a succession of crude, off-site advertising trailers parked at the Sai Center’s old 11th and K streets location have directed cannabis-seekers to its new site. Left, the original and barely readable “art project.” Middle, the dilapidated horse trailer. Right, the original trailer is now back with more garish lettering and a flat tire on its right side. Each time the City orange-tags a trailer, it is replaced with another. Photos by KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – The four-dimensional hall of mirrors that comprises U.S. cannabis law has gained some fresh, Arcata-style mutations.

Steven Gasparas’ Sai Center dispensary is in its second month of operation without a use permit at Ninth and I streets in defiance of the City.

Most recently, the self-described “pirate” of Arcata cannabis sellers found himself oddly allied with the federal government. Both, it turns out, dispute local governments’ authority to regulate retail cannabis operations. While the feds don’t like any of it, Gasparas has spun the Department of Justice’s cannabis-regulation crackdown to exempt his business from permit requirements.

On top of the always-elastic nature of the facts when cannabis is involved, plus the Gasparas factor, last week’s Planning Commision meeting took place just as the U.S. Department of Justice, with exquisite timing, decided to enforce long-ignored federal law against California’s cannabis distribution paradigm. The unexpected intrusion of the feds made an already hazy regulatory environment even more opaque.

Recent years have seen state and local governments edging away from criminalizing millions of cannabis users by putting in place various schemes to regulate cultivation and distribution. But the federal government’s sudden zeal for enforcement has thrown the whole situation into question.

The week after California’s federal attorneys announced that they would crack down on “marijuana stores” and even prosecute public officials who administer local cannabis law, reports of scattershot enforcement began to appear. A dispensary grow in Mendocino County was raided, cannabis centers and the property owners who host them were bracing for DOJ warning letters and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy stated that even media outlets who advertise what the federal government maintains is illegal drug activity could be in violation of federal law.

It was against this chaotic legal backdrop that the Planning Commission again took up the matter of the Sai Center’s Conditional Use Permit for the fourth time, following City staff's recommendation to deny the Sai Center CUP.

Now, in a fresh twist, the City itself is urging appeal of the decision it had recommended and which the Planning Commission passed only last week. That decision will likely be taken by the City Council at Wednesday's regular meeting.

Confused yet? You’re in abundant company.

Sai Center

You don’t often see two chiefs of police and the city attorney at a Planning Commission meeting. But the Sai Center’s reality distortion field starts at Ninth and I streets and extends well into City Council Chamber, apparently requiring heavy pushback.

City officials tried to root the proceedings in the most stable legal ground available. A staff report for the agenda item summarizes the previous week’s City Council direction to the Planco to suspend any “final action” on cannabis dispensary Conditional Use Permits (CUP). That final action, according to City Attorney Nancy Diamond, doesn’t preclude denial, since a Planco denial may be appealed to the City Council, extending the process.

States the staff report, “a denial is not in conflict with the Controlled Substances Act and therefore poses no legal risk of prosecution by the Department of Justice.”

“It’s not that we can’t take final action,” said Deputy Community Development Director David Loya. “It’s that we can’t take final action on approval.”

As was later learned, those legal opinions are not shared by Gasparas or his mother, who spoke on the Sai Center’s behalf at the meeting.

Formally notifying the Planco that the Sai Center had moved and opened up at Ninth and I streets “ in defiance of the City ordinance and without the proper permits,” Loya said that the City is seeking an injunction against the business’s continued operation.

For reasons unexplained, though, that hasn’t happened in the month since Gasparas moved to the new location. The City sent Gasparas and the property’s owners a Notice of Nuisance letter Sept. 16, three days after he moved in. Despite suggestions that a restraining order or injunctions might be obtained, the City has gained no further court proscriptions against the center’s operation.

In that time, though, the Sai Center has continued to do brisk business, with customers seen entering the heavily-curtained shop and leaving with brown bags in hand.

Loya noted that planning staff had originally recommended approval of the Sai Center CUP. That changed to a recommendation of denial based on testimony from neighboring businesses and that of Gasparas himself, plus the manifest incompatibility of his business with its surroundings.

Letters from area businesses offered anecdotal accounts of unsavory activity in the street outside the center and fears for the well-being of the surrounding area.

Not all the correspondence submitted regarding the Sai Center was negative. Landlord Ken Cook, who rents the Sai Center space to Gasparas for $4,200 per month, extolled the center as “An asset to us as well as the surrounding community. We find the Sai Center to be a thoughtful neighbor and a team player for the business district of Arcata!”

Another problem was Gasparas’ own testimony at previous meetings. He’d said that his cannabis supply would come from a cultivation facility in Redding, one which that town’s police chief had personally approved. But Police Chief Peter Hansen told staff that Gasparas has no legal garden in Redding.

“It just doesn’t jive,” Loya observed. “These seem to be either misstatements or misrepresentations or there is some serious confusion that needs to be explained to the commission.”

A further annoyance to the City is the succession of roadside ads Gasparas has put in place at the old Sai Center site at 11th and K streets.

When Arcata’s cannabis ordinance was passed in 2008, one of the conditions was that dispensaries be low-key in nature, not openly advertising their product. Most have complied, keeping the nature of their shops unobtrusive.

Three times, trailers bearing hand-lettered signs advertising the new location have been parked at the previous Sai Center location. Twice they have been tagged as abandoned, only to be replaced by another trailer with more prominent lettering. The latest is a white trailer topped with colorful wooden signs proclaiming the availability of medical marijuana.

“These businesses are supposed to be discreet and under the radar,” Loya said. He also cited the multiple “Prop 215 Community Welcome” signs now posted at the Sai Center.

Summarized Loya, “it demonstrates and speaks to how the business would be operated should it be approved.”

All in all, states a staff report, the Sai Center “is not compatible with downtown commercial district retail, residential and approved senior housing, and the family and community activities of the Plaza.”

Loya suggested that commissioners set aside the “hoopla” surrounding cannabis and simply determine whether five necessary findings for approval could be made – that the application complies with the Land Use Code, that it fits in with the General Plan, that it’s compatible with the area, and finally, that the site is suitable and that granting the permit wouldn’t bring down the ’hood.

Pat Sarlas, Gasparas’ mother, laid down the law as she and her son see it, which is that the Planning Commission can’t take any action for or against the permit without challenging the direction of the City Council and possibly bringing the wrath of the feds down on City officials. The City’s cannabis ordinance, she said, was voided by the DOJ’s recent announcement.

She said his CUP applicant wasn’t complete when first submitted due to the challenges of being a single father.

“Singling us out because we were forced to move shows extreme prejudice and discrimination and malicious intent,” which could be the foundation of a lawsuit, Sarlas said.

She added that the Sai Center has been in business “quietly and peacefully” since 2007.

Gasparas began his remarks by saying that “you’ve seen the best and worst of me,” possibly referring to his argument with Mayor Susan Ornelas over exceeding the three-minute public comment limit at the previous City Council meeting.

“I don’t feel that this process is being fair,” he said. That clashes with statements he repeatedly made during previous hearings that “one hundred percent of the things I’ve had to do are reasonable... I consider them all fair.”

He said his conversation with Redding Chief Hansen was on videotape and verifies his account that the garden there is on the up and up.

Over and over, Gasparas told the Planco that it could take no “final action” on his permit.

Like his mother, he asserted, regarding the Sai Center, that “this is my fifth year without conflict.”

That would be news to his former business neighbors at 11th at K streets, with whom he repeatedly clashed over various issues; to his landlord Helmut Remiorz, who tried over and over to evict him, with multiple court hearings involved; to his former employee Tim Littlefield, who brought him before the Labor Commission over an employment dispute; to his former gardener Joe Mello, who took him to court and won a cash settlement; and to the county’s Environmental Health Dept., which paid several visits to his Sai Om Shree restaurant with sheriff’s deputies and Arcata Police officers in an effort to shut down the unpermitted facility. A jury eventually found him guilty of three counts of operating a restaurant without a permit.

Regarding the 11th and K horse trailer, which at that moment bore an orange abandoned vehicle sticker issued by Arcata Police five days previous, on Oct. 6, Gasparas said he wasn’t sure what the City wanted him to do. “I don’t know how to address it,” he said. “You could just tell me what you want me to do.”

It shouldn't have been any mystery what the City wanted him to do with the off-site signage – which is simply to take it away. As Gasparas spoke, the horse trailer several blocks away bore an orange "abandoned vehicle" sticker issued Oct. 6, five days previous to the Planco meeting, giving him 10 days to move it. The rusty trailer was taken away later in the week, but immediately replaced with another one bearing similarly garish signs.

Gasparas made still another questionable assertion in claiming that, in contrast to the Sai Center, the Humboldt Medical Supply (HMS) cannabis center is fully visible from the Plaza.

Among the questionable, easily checkable assertions that Steven Gasparas has made to the Planning Commission is his claim that his Sai Center is not visible from the Plaza, but that the Humboldt Medical Supply (HMS) cannabis center is. In fact, the opposite is true. Top, the view from the corner of Ninth and H streets, with the Cook/McDonald Building which houses the Sai Center clearly in view. The front of the Sai Center can be clearly seen on the ground floor. Gasparas also claimed with regard to HMS a block away, that from the center of the Plaza, “you can see their business.” Above, the view from the Plaza’s center shows, behind the stop sign, a part of the Humboldt Capoeira Academy martial arts center and a thin slice of Rita’s Mexican restaurant, which occupy the same large building. But no part of HMS can be seen, as the Arcata Post Office completely blocks any view of it. Photos by KLH | Eye

“You can’t see us from the Plaza,” Gasparas said. “Whereas them, you can be in the middle of the Plaza and see their business,” he said. “Ours you have to get around the corner to see where we are.”

The opposite is true. From the Plaza, HMS is completely obscured by the Arcata Post Office. But standing on the northwest corner of the Ninth and H streets intersection on the Plaza, most of the Cook/McDonald Building and the front of the Sai Center on its ground floor can be plainly seen.

Gasparas also claimed that neighboring businesses such as the Arcata Co-op and Hensel’s Ace Hardware are “not doing anything” about loiterers in and around their property. But both routinely seek police assistance over slouchabout infestations.

Redding Police Chief Hansen offered a review of that city’s history with Gasparas. It somewhat resembled the Arcata pattern of unpermitted operations, miscommunications and questionable assertions.

Hansen said that he didn’t know whether Gasparas was running a garden in Redding. “If Mr. Gasparas is operating a marijuana nursery in Redding... he is in direct violation of the Redding Municipal Code now, and he was in 2009, 2010 and 2011.”

Gasparas disputed Hansen’s account, said he had their conversation on videotape and indicated that he is anticipating spending still more time in court. “We have that for our future battle,” he said. “That’s part of our ammunition that we’re building up.”

When it was time for Planning Commissioners to weigh in, they had questions about the source of the Sai Center’s cannabis.

Gasparas responded that his Redding grow was a “personal garden,” the fruits of which he chooses to provide to the Sai Center. He said seven Sai Center members in Redding maintain personal gardens and sell their “excess” cannabis to his business.

Commissioner Paul Hagen said he couldn’t make three of the five findings required for approval.

Hagen said he couldn’t find that the Sai  CUP would be consistent with the cannabis ordinance, that it would fit in with existing businesses and that it wouldn’t be a detriment to the neighborhood.

The Planning Commission then voted unanimously to deny the permit.

City attorney Nancy Diamond again affirmed her opinion that only permit issuance would be a problem for the feds, and that “final action” would only be the end of an appeal process, not the Planco’s denial.

And now, the mooting

This week’s City Council meeting contains an agenda item updating the council on cannabis developments. It includes a staff report recommendation from Diamond that the council appeal its own Planning Commission’s Sai Center permit denial.

She said that would help “moot out” any ambiguity over the council’s “no final action” direction to the Planco by taking that action itself.

“Through the council’s final action on an appeal, whatever the appeal outcome, the issue of whether the Planning Commission had authority to deny the permit would be resolved.”

If the council initiates the appeal, it would be heard at a future council meeting.


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  2. Mark Sailors said:

    Is that enough attorneyspeak for you?
    I can’t help it if people will not look up the law and the binding legal decisions before the attempt to speak on a subject that they know very little about, yet want everyone to take their word that their OPINION is worth anything as far as the ACTUAL law is concerned.

  3. Mark Sailors said:

    Overview of California Marijuana Rulings

    Landmark New Ruling: The People v Kelly Decision (2010): The Supreme Court held that the quantities are legal as a safe harbor for state ID cardholders but are unconstitutional as a limit on a qualified patient’s legal defense. It also noted that the state ID card system is constitutional and collectives operating under Health and Safety Code 11362.775 are lawful throughout the state. Click here to view as a PDF (320k) Chris Conrad’s cannabis expert testimony cited multiple times.


    Berry Decision: Patients can use medical marijuana on probation or parole

    Bearman Decision: Appellate Court: Judicial review of good cause is required before the California Medical Board can gain access to private physician / patient documents.

    Bergen Decision (2008) determined that qualified patients making edibles, hash and kief are clearly legal but using butane to make hash oil is chemical extraction that is not covered by the medical use statutes — although the oil product is legal. Click here to view as a PDF (44k).

    Chakos Decision: “Nowhere in this record do we find any substantial evidence that the arresting officer had any expertise in differentiating citizens who possess marijuana lawfully for their own consumption, as distinct from possessing unlawfully with intent to sell.” Click here to view as a PDF (48k).

    Galambos: Prop 215 CUA caregiver defense not available to one who helped others obtain medicinal marijuana unless strict standard is met. (Case preceeded SB420 (HS11362.775) that allows patients to associate collectively to cultivate and provide cannabis.) (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 1147, 1152.

    Jones Decision: Prop 215: A patient can testify about their oral medical approval when the physician is not willing or available. All defense needs to raise is a reasonable doubt of guilt, not preponderance of evidence or any other standard. “Thus, a physician could approve of a patient’s suggested use of marijuana without ever recommending its use.” Chris Conrad’s consulted on case but did not testify.

    Kelly Decision: Three Appeals courts ruled the quantity limits passed by the legislature in SB420 were unconstitutional .Chris Conrad testified at Kelly’s original Long Beach trial and is cited. The Supreme Court held that the quantities are legal as a safe harbor for state ID cardholders but are unconstitutional as a limit on a qualified patient’s defense in court. It also held that the state ID card system is constitutional and that collectives operating under Health and Safety Code 11362.775 are constitutionally protected throughout the state. Click here to view as a PDF (320k) Chris Conrad’s cannabis expert testimony cited multiple times.

    Kelly Appeals Court Decision. Chris Conrad testified at the original Long Beach trial and is cited. Ruling that was reviewed by the Supreme Court (Click here to view as a PDF (144k). Christopher Conrad testimony, mention 1. Christopher Conrad testimony, mention 2.

    Phomphakdy Appeals Court Decision: Chris Conrad testified at the original Sacramento trial and is cited. Held that Quantities listed in SB 420, HS 11362.77(a) are unconstitutional to the extent that they are taken as limits affecting patients’ rights or legal defense. Chris Conrad’s testimony, mention 1 . Chris Conrad’s testimony, mention 2.

    Archer Appeals Court Decision. Chris Conrad testified at the original San Diego trial. SB 420 quantity limits held unconstitutional by Appeals Court.

    Kha Decision: Appellate Court: Local police must return medical marijuana to patients if found to be lawful under state law, regardless of federal law. Click here to view as a PDF (120k). “Mindful as we are of the general supremacy of federal law, we are unable to discern any justification for the City or its police department to disregard the trial court’s order to return Kha’s marijuana. The order is fully consistent with state law respecting the possession of medical marijuana, and for all the reasons discussed, we do not believe the federal drug laws supersede or preempt Kha’s right to the return of his property. That right has its origins in the CUA and MMP, but it is grounded, at bottom, on fairness principles embodied in the due process clause. Those principles require the return of Kha’s property.”

    Mentch Decision Supreme Court limited use of the “the person exempted under this act who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health or safety of that person.” It did not limit the activities of patient / caregiver collectives operating under Health and Safety Code 11362.775. Chris Conrad testified at the original Santa Cruz trial. (2008) 45 Cal.4th 274, 45 Cal.4th 308b

    Mower Decision Supreme Court, Prop 215: Supreme Court upholds right to patient’s benefit of the doubt and prosecutor’s burden of proof, encourages pre-trial disposition of medical marijuana-related charges on limited immunity, not merely an affirmative defense at trial. Chris Conrad testified at the original Tuolumne County trial and is cited. Testimony of Chris Conrad

    Peron Decision: Appellate Court: “Proposition 215 does not allow ‘unlimited quantities of marijuana to be grown anywhere.’ It only allows marijuana to be grown for a patient’s personal use. Police Officers can still arrest anyone who grows too much, or tries to sell it.” Medical marijuana caregivers have a right to remuneration for services that are consistently provided to a patient.

    Spark Decision: Juries and judges do not get to “second guess” a doctor’s approval, condition need not be determined to be “serious” for a valid approval.

    Rigo Decision : The CUA defense cannot apply to a physician’s post-arrest ratification of self-medication on marijuana. People v. Rigo (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 409, 412.

    Rossi Decision: Appellate Court, SB 420: Retroactive application of the law extends benefits of changes in penalty, but later-enacted crimes or penalties are not retroactive.

    San Diego v NORML: Federal law does not trump state law, California counties and agencies have to follow State law, not federal. Download as PDF.

    Tilehkooh Decision: Appellate Court, SB 420: Use of medical marijuana is legal for a qualified patient on probation.

    Trippet Decision: Chris Conrad testified at the Humboldt County trial. Appellate Court, Prop 215: Patients not entitled to “unlimited amounts,” but transportation and possession are authorized. “The rule should be that the quantity possessed by the patient or the primary caregiver, and the form and manner in which it is possessed, should be reasonably related to the patient’s current medical needs. What precisely are the “patient’s current medical needs” must, of course, remain a factual question to be determined by the trier of fact.” No discussion of Conrad’s testimony.

    Urziceanu Decision: Appellate Court, SB 420: Rights to collectively obtain, cultivate and dispense not protected by HS11362.5 but they are protected by HS 11362.7. Chris Conrad testified at the original Sacramento trial and is cited. Testimony of Chris Conrad

    Williamson Decision: Appellate Court: Personal (non-commercial) marijuana cultivation can get a deferred entry of judgment and diversion from prison.

    Windus Decision: Doctor’s approval is not an annual requirement and can be good for years; doctor’s dosage is advisory and does not restrict patient from having a “reasonable” amount, even if less than what a patient has.

    Wright Decision: California Supreme Court, SB 420: holds that sponsors of Senate Bill No. 420 (2003-2004 Reg. Sess.) made clear that, although couched in mandatory terms, the amounts set forth in section11362.77, subdivision (a) were intended “to be the threshold, not the ceiling.” This decision laid the groundwork for People v Kelly (2010).

  4. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, I agree that vocal groups hold unwavering opinions about this issue which short circuits reasonable approaches to industry regulation. The most vocal industry players are not going to agree to compromise unless that compromise happens to give them an upper hand in the industry.

    Staunch advocates of an unregulated cannabis industry likely employ attorneyspeak due to the company they keep. I can’t blame people who often speak with attorneys for sounding like attorneys themselves.

    I think Arcata’s cultivation permitting was a reaction to industrial agriculture encroaching on residential neighborhoods. A connection must have been made in residents’ minds between small local storefronts and the large-scale export industry. Regulating a local industry with the intent of curtailing an export industry does not seem like it will ever have the desired effect.

    The Netherlands dealt with their internationallegal issues and desire for common sense regulation by never permitting commercial cultivation. The Dutch system is one where the supply side is simply ignored by the government. A system of purposeful ignorance could work well for Arcata’s local industry while keeping the city clear of violating federal law.

    This is a loaded issue and I appreciate you taking the time to discuss it. I am usually too annoyed by the either the Scott Burns or cannabis-worship reasoning used when people discuss this issue to want to talk about it frankly.

  5. kevpod said:

    “Kevin, local government permitting cultivation or distribution is not workable considering the current federal regulations and political climate.”

    Various city attorneys across the state apparently disagree (including ours, who has spoken personally with the regional U.S. attorney on the subject), as their municipalities are following through with permit denials.

    “Is there another business type where the city require a storefront to manufacture their inventory?”

    I’m not aware of any. Nor am I aware of another product which has compelled so many people to convert residential housing into neighborhood-blighting industrial facilities. Further, the cannabis centers prefer to grow their own anyway as they can control the quality.

    Since the big money came into the cannabis picture, any discussion of regulating its manufacture and distribution to minimize impacts has been met with the same reaction all big industries have: go away, leave us alone. Couple that with the all-forgiving veneration that surrounds cannabis and you suddenly have a lot of advocates attempting attorneyspeak, data mining, offering selected case law precedents, dispensing far-reaching legal opinions and dismissing as illegitimate and illegal any attempts at reasonable regulation. But outside of that bubble, most of the rest of the populace is happy to accommodate the industry as long as prudent conditions are in place.

  6. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, local government permitting cultivation or distribution is not workable considering the current federal regulations and political climate. Arcata does not want to hear about a second cultivation permit for this reason and probably rescind their first permit. The only legal choices for the city are to ban cannabis businesses outright or treat these businesses like any other business. Arcata’s CUP process does not treat cannabis businesses like any other business due to the requirement if a cannabis cultivation permit.

    Is there another business type where the city require a storefront to manufacture their inventory? This does not seem like an exemption to me if other businesses are not required to meet the same standard.

  7. kevpod said:

    One reason you may not have noticed any impacts is that the centers are, with some significant exceptions, following the City guidelines. However, your personal observations may not constitute a definitive record. Those who live in proximity to these centers spoke of their issues during the 2008 LUC hearings.

    All kinds of businesses which generate impacts are required to get Conditional Use Permits which carry conditions of approval in order to manage these impacts. There’s no logical reason to exempt cannabis centers.

  8. Ian Ray said:

    Mark Sailors, using guidelines that do not explicitly discuss cannabis would provide the city with legal immunity. It appears that the strategy of requiring cannabis businesses to manage permitted cultivation sites puts these businesses under greater federal scrutiny. Federal scrutiny will likely hurt chances of any future economic gains.

    I see no evidence that a cannabis business is actually associated with the perceived impacts which Arcata’s permitting is supposed to mitiage. It has been over a decade with these businesses operating in Arcata. I have anecdotally noticed nothing from cannabis businesses above and beyond the issues associated with other businesses, neighbors, and landlords. If it were not for Kevin’s journalistic gusto, I may have missed that there has been more than one of these businesses operating in Arcata. The only one I was aware of until reading the Eye articles was located where the Hospice Shop is now. I recognize that neighbors to these businesses are likely not so blissfully ignorant. I have some reason to believe that the federal government would not be closely monitoring the situation if not for the city adopting a permitting system.

    There may be a need for conflict resolution as there appears to be some disgruntled players involved in the local industy. I don’t think this would be made into such a dramatic issue if not for people’s opinions of cannabis itself. Without cannabis involved, I would like to think there would be an opportunity for those involved to sit at the table, make peace, and hash out compromises. Instead, there seems to be the notion of activism on all sides with the local government stuck in the middle trying to make opposed activists groups happy. Situations involving unrelenting activisim are not good for business as one side will always try to one up
    the other.

  9. kevpod said:

    Not if they’re grow houses. Almost all the high-volume grow house operators try to legitimize their exploitation of 215 by laughably pretending they’re “patient gardens,” doing a great disservice to the genuine 215 grows. The rest of us are under no obligation to buy in to the deception.

  10. Mark Sailors said:

    At the last meeting, Larry Oetker—Director of the Community Development Department, said that his staff was uncomfortable working on any medical marijuana paperwork, and then went on to state that he didn’t see the need for an specific medical marijuana regulation, or ordinance, a complete turn around from his previous position.

    Also, can we please stop referring to patient gardens as “grow houses?”

  11. kevpod said:

    This also reinforces the City Attorney’s legal opinion that permit denials won’t run afoul of the DOJ.

  12. Ian Ray said:

    In relateds news, Lake County rescinded its cannabis permits.

    An Orange County landlord ordered cannabis businesses in his strip mall to close after his bank account was frozen. Protests ensued Wednesday.

    I think the recent events predict what is to come. State and local governments will rescind their permitting processes while federal agencies carry out tax audits and asset seizures. Trophy raids will be focused on large nurseries.

  13. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, I predict federal law will be enforced by state court decisions with regards to local permitting. The raids and account seizures will most likely come at their budgeted rate and be targeted at cases where it can be argued that state lines were crossed by some function of the business. Weekly newspapers and food worker unions will lose money. This seems to be the logical order of events.

  14. kevpod said:

    “Kevin, the city is not worried about raids on city hall or the freezing of city bank accounts.”

    At last night’s council meeting we learned that planning staff is afraid to process dispensary CUPs for fear of personal reprisals by the federal government? I didn’t say the feds were going to raid City Hall. They don’t need to in order to upset the regulatory applecart. The open question is whether the DOJ will commit resources to a genuine sustained effort to exert federal authority. As our city attorney noted last night, we’ll learn a lot about follow-through in weeks to come.

    “Local governments will always have the legal power to enforce simple zoning laws specifying where state decriminalized activity can occur through zoning abatement processes.”

    That’s not what the federal attorneys said. They don’t recognize state decriminalized activity. But they also said they aren’t going to devote additional resources to countering it. Do you have any predictions as to whether it will follow through?

  15. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, the city is not worried about raids on city hall or the freezing of city bank accounts. The sustained effort will more likely be state court decisions concerning permits conflicting with federal law. Local governments will always have the legal power to enforce simple zoning laws specifying where state decriminalized activity can occur through zoning abatement processes. The city may be wise to remove any permitting language from the LUC that conflicts with the CSA and refund any fees.

  16. kevpod said:

    Yes, that is the federal government’s contention. Whether it will prevail against the rickety paradigm we have in place regionally is the big question.

    The federal gov’t tends to make trophy raids, issue a triumphant press release and then disappear. Maybe this time it will make more of a sustained effort.

  17. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, I read some of the minutes from 2008. The city government thought it had the power through zoning to legally authorize cultivation. Several discussions of the ordinance relied on the idea that a qualified patient can receive cannabis from an approved nursery if the patient is unable to cultivate within Arcata’s approved cultivation parameters. Authorized cultivation was intended to aid in health and safety by centralizing some production to a controlled environment. Authroizing cultivation is not permitted by the Controlle Substances Act. The city may not be able to legally carry out the intent of zoning laws not permitted by the CSA.

  18. kevpod said:

    I doubt that anyone thinks regulating cannabis dispensaries will cure grow houses. At least I’ve never heard anyone make such a claim.

    At the same time, it’s only prudent to make sure the cannabis retail outlets don’t contribute to the degradation of neighborhoods.

    Sourcing was only one of the many concerns that citizens brought to the LUC hearings in ’08.

  19. Ian Ray said:

    Kevin, you bring up the powerful drug argument again. You questioned earlier if tax accountants should use medicinal cannabis. I don’t see how a quiet store selling cannabis would increase the impact of cannabis considering most black market sales already occur in parks, residential areas, and unfortunately schools. If it cut into black market sales at all, I would think this would reduce existing impacts of black market sales.

    As for sourcing inventory, I pointed out in an earlier thread the sheer magnitude of production in the Arcata area compared to the potential retail distribution. By my estimates, these businesses would need to stock cannabis in bales like a feed store to have any significant impact on the existing export market. It also seems that the “received no monetary remittance” portion of the LUC gives these businesses no option but to set up cultivation to the scale of what the federal government hands down 10-year prison sentences for.

    I would agree that Arcata has serious issues in regard to grow houses. The scale of the problem seems beyond what business zoning can address.

  20. kevpod said:

    Any high volume business like a cannabis center generates impacts. Cannabis centers have their own set of impacts. These include traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, odor, energy use, solid waste, water use, fire safety and security, appearance (signage etc.) among other issues raised during the approval process. Since they’re selling a powerful drug, there’s concern about proximity to parks, schools and residential areas. There is also concern about the sourcing of the drug and discouraging conversion of residential homes into industrial facilities.

    Those are among the reasons for the CUP process.

  21. Ian Ray said:

    The popcorn should last a while. This business has been open for weeks and the only interesting things I’ve seen so far are the sign trailers, Eye articles, and colorful Arcata meetings. The business itself seems less exciting than a bookstore. The local drug dealers haven’t even abandoned their favorite Hensel’s wall spots as was predicted. It seems to me that Arcata has focused a good deal of resources to formulate regulations for of one of the most boring business models in town. Am I missing something? I still have not heard a convincing argument as to why Arcata should bother.

  22. Indica Jones said:

    Prop 215 is an attempt to game the system. A guy comes along who is an obvious master at gaming the system. Game on. I’ve got popcorn and beer.

  23. Ian Ray said:

    Anonymous threats man, thank you for engaging in productive dialogue regarding this issue.

  24. Mark Sailors said:

    Are you advocating felony vandalism and grand theft as punishment for breaking what the owner and others believe to be an illegal ordinance? According to the recent long beach apelate court ruling, a local government can’t have an ordinance that expressly tells people it is ok to violate Federal law. That would make the entire Arcata medical cannabis ordinance illegal and unenforceable.

  25. Arkat-ah Maan said:

    Why can’t the city just shut this creep down for violating city ordinances? If he’s operating illegal, (oh, he and his MOM, I forgot..)the cops should just beat his ass like every other smelly plazoid that tries to flaunt the law. Maybe if someone smashed his windows and took all of the medicine he supposedly grows in Redding, the bastard would learn a lesson or two.. food for thought.

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