Growing Like Weeds: OB Medical Pot Clinics Sprouting Up All Over

by on August 10, 2009 · 14 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, OB Shop Talk, Ocean Beach

Mother Nuture's is open for business over on West Point Loma. All photos by Doug Porter.

Originally posted August 7, 2009.

It’s been a good couple of months for some commercial property owners in the 92107 area.

Since the Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by the County of San Diego that sought to block implementation of the provisions of California’s 1996 Proposition 215, two stores that dispense medicinal marijuana have already opened and another four are expected to open during the next few weeks.

In a down market, where many commercial property owners are reducing tenant rents and otherwise modifying leases just to keep properties occupied, OB has seen solid growth in retail rentals.

Not everybody is happy about all these new leases being signed. Ocean Beach residents and business people interviewed by the OBRag over the past week are voicing concerns about marijuana dispensaries opening throughout the community. Thus far, the attitude is mostly one of “wait & see”, with a great deal of reluctance to go “on the record” in opposing these businesses. Rumors of higher crime rates in other areas that have these storefronts combined with news media accounts of pot store proliferation in Los Angeles (over 600 locations have opened in the last two years) are at the root of local concerns.

The Beach Collective on Voltaire Street is already open.

The dispensaries, also called “collectives” and “co-ops” are banned in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County, the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Vista and San Marcos. Escondido, Oceanside, Chula Vista National City and Santee have all implemented 45-day moratoriums on granting business licenses to these kinds of businesses, which are required by law to be non-profit entities. It’s likely that legal challenges to the bans will be coming shortly. The City of San Diego is studying the situation, where there are currently few laws that apply directly to the operation of dispensaries. One thing that you can say for sure about the pot business: there are lawyers lurking wherever you look.

Based on our attempts over the last two weeks to interview dispensary operators, (both in and out of OB) they aren’t doing much to alleviate local concerns. Some told us that they refused to be interviewed, others “lawyered up” claiming that they’d been advised not to speak with reporters based on advice of counsel, and others promised us they’d get back to us… later, maybe. The owner of Mother Nuture, a dispensary located on West Point Loma Avenue, did (after three attempts at contact) say he’d talk with us (soon) and has even promised to make a public appearance at Matt Cook’s talk show at Gallagher’s pub on August 16th. (We’re pretty sure he’s not a three headed monster, but we’ll be there just to make sure and report our findings to you.)

Generally speaking, they all seem pretty unconnected with the community, paranoid, and eager to talk about how good their lawyers were should anybody cause them any trouble.

The Greem (with an "m") Light Collective is opening soon at the back of this mini-mall on Newport

I visited the two already open clinics in OB that are taking walk-ins (There is one other that claims to be members only) last week. The experience is very much like going to a doctor’s office. Each had a waiting room with receptionist and locked back room (s) where clients were ushered after completing paperwork. Instead of People, there were copies of Nug magazine, a slick publication dedicated to San Diego’s cannabis community, complete with gardening and cooking columns. And, of course, there were cards for lawyers on display in the waiting rooms.

The medicinal nature of the OB Clinics contrasted sharply with an operation that I observed while visiting Venice Beach over July 4th weekend. As my family -including my 13 year old daughter- walked down the famed Venice Boardwalk, we passed employees of a local clinic openly soliciting our business: they had a primo sound system blasting hip tunes, discount coupons, and were loudly promising that they had “a doctor in the house”. Other clinics in the Los Angeles area reportedly feature relaxation rooms where clients can “medicate” while enjoying pool tables, video games and stages featuring live music.

Clinics in the Bay area have taken a decidedly more activist approach. Oakland residents, urged on by local operators, passed a local tax on marijuana sales. Supporters of the legalization movement believe that this ballot effort was a big leap forward towards legitimizing, regulating and legalizing marijuana. And the City of Oakland is thrilled to be getting an extra boost thanks to the tax on the estimated $17.5 million in pot sales that happened in the four clinics serving that community.

Thirteen years ago medical marijuana was legalized in California via a state ballot initiative that made cannabis available by prescription. That means you’ve got to get a doctor to certify any conditions that may be treated with medicinal marijuana. So you can’t just walk in and buy grass in one of these dispensaries, regardless of what part of the State it’s located in. And the places I visited appeared to have vigorous protocols in place to discourage behavior that might be considered offensive by their neighbors. The problem is that, while today’s clinics may seem to be on the up and up, there is nothing in place to prevent future providers from engaging in virtually any kind of conduct.

This is the latest location to apply for a business license, 1811 Sunset Cliffs, next to Point Loma Cleaners

The prevailing paranoia in the pot business is certainly understandable, given the history of prosecutions that have been aimed at cannabis users. Nationwide, about 775,000 people were arrested in 2007 for simple possession. Over 6500 people have been imprisoned for possession this year alone. (For up to the minute statistics on the cost and scope of the “War on Drugs” click here.)

The non-medicinal part of the marijuana trade continues to thrive. It’s the largest single cash crop in the State of California, generating an estimated $14 billion annually. Much of the illegal trade is now supposedly controlled by Mexican drug cartels and these farms’ negative impact on the State’s environment is well documented. How much of this illicit cannabis is finding its way into local dispensaries is a question that will likely remain unanswered, given the secretive nature of the business. Given the number of companies advertising hydroponic gear locally, it’s also safe to say that a substantial amount of “home grown” is available.

Legal or not, the marijuana trade has been a part of the fabric of OB life going back at least fifty years. Now that it’s coming out of the shadows, it’s time to perhaps rethink all the paranoid parts of pot production. Maybe these new operators will emerge from behind their closed doors long enough to discover the vibrant and diverse community that surrounds them. Maybe the community will work with them and discover that they’re not three headed monsters.

Located at the old OB Hardware Store location on Newport Ave, the rent for this as-yet-to-open dispensary is reported to be in the $5 grand a month range.

Now, if we could just have a sane and rational discussion about the role of intoxicants in our society-sans the propaganda-things would be lovely.

As usual, your comments are an important part of the story here at the OBRag.

And we’d still love to talk with any dispensary operators about what they envision their role in the community to be.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna Schiele August 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Excellent article Doug! I agree with you. If the dispensaries stay on the up and up and the customers/patients are well behaved, there should be no issues. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


Danny Morales August 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Extra! Sunset Plaza to become WOMMMP!(World of Medicinal Marijuana Marketing Plaza)


bodysurferbob August 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm

thanks dougbob for addressing this issue and the ramifications for our surfnuts community


mr fresh August 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

dude! what did you do to make those guys so paranoid? were you wearing an lapd rulz tee shirt? there’s nothing like a reporter snooping around to kill a good buzz.


Bill Harris August 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Debaters debate the two wars as if Nixon’s civil war on Woodstock Nation didn’t yet run amok. One needn’t travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights or to Cuba for political prisoners. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to ongoing persecution of hippies, radicals, and non-whites under banner of the war on drugs. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance credibility.

The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as lives are flushed down expensive tubes. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. In God’s eyes, it’s all good (Gen.1:12). The administration claims it wants to reduce demand for cartel product, but extraditing Canadian seed vendor Marc Emery increases demand. Mr. Emery enables American farmers to steal cartel customers with superior domestic product.

The constitutionality of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) derives from an interstate commerce clause. This clause is invoked to finance organized crime, endanger homeland security, and throw good money after bad. Official policy is to eradicate, not tax, the number-one cash crop in the land. America rejected prohibition, but it’s back. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment.

Nixon promised the Schafer Commission would support the criminalization of his enemies, but it didn’t. No matter, the witch-hunt was on. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA halted all research. Marijuana has no medical use, period.

The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. Denial of entheogen sacrament to any American, for mediation of communion with his or her maker, precludes the free exercise of religious liberty.

Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

Common-law must hold that adults own their bodies. The Founding Fathers decreed the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.

Simple majorities in each house could put repeal of the CSA on the president’s desk. The books have ample law on them without the CSA. The usual caveats remain in effect. You are liable for damages when you screw up. Strong medicine requires prescription. Employees can be fired for poor job performance. No harm, no foul; and no excuse, either. Replace the war on drugs with a frugal, constitutional, science-based drugs policy.


OBSteven August 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

What’s marijuana?


jon August 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

I think it’s near to Tijuana.


jon August 9, 2009 at 9:32 am

“Near to?” Who talks like that?


619-1502 August 9, 2009 at 11:15 am
Abby August 10, 2009 at 8:01 am

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d rather have a couple of pot clinics than some fast food chains or another Starbucks!


lane tobias August 10, 2009 at 10:12 am

Doug awesome foray into the world of non-profit pot. I think the paranoia has little to do with you, or reporters in general, but more with the possibility of prosecution as this issue continues to go back and forth….in true California style.

I welcome dispensaries in OB, particularly since the model for these
“businesses” represents the future of actual legalization of the drug in this country. The secrecy is alarming only because in a community that is accepting of such practices like OB, you would think these folks would be more open about what’s going on.

I hope there’s more to come.


Frank Gormlie August 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

Welcome back Lane! Looks like you guys survived. Anything worth posting?


Dallas August 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

Great article, Doug. Please keep us informed. I can understand why the people putting these clinics and co-ops are paranoid. And it has nothing to do with the pot. Society (in a hypocritical fashion) hasn’t fully embraced marijuana culture or it’s potential benefits. And rightfully so. Over a century of programming has gave society the illusion that the cannabis plant is bad and everyone who uses it is a deviant criminal (visions of the old film Reefer Madness comes to mind). The owners are simply protecting their interests. The trend of these days is that those who are outwardly conservative are often the ones most heard. So even if they do an interview with an open-minded publication like the OB Rag, that information could easily be accessed by the opposition.

Now, one could argue that if these people aren’t doing anything wrong then what do they have to fear. Sadly, you don’t have to do anything “wrong” to have your business shut down or your reputation smeared or even just to be regularly harassed by those who don’t like what you’re doing. And when it comes to pot, there are ALOT of people who say they don’t like it because of the years of programming.


mr fresh August 11, 2009 at 10:13 am

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