L-R: Robert Calvert, owner, with Stephanie Giangiordano and John Paulson (Photo:Geisel)
Medical marijuana cooperative members had reason to give some additional thanks this past holiday weekend. Robert Calvert’s Mammoth Lakes Wellness became the first marijuana dispensary in Mammoth to open its doors on Nov. 27.
Steve Klassen’s Green Mammoth, to be located in the KMMT building on Laurel Mountain Road, is expected to be open by next weekend.
Calvert and Klassen were granted the two available permits by the Town of Mammoth Lakes on Oct. 27.
Calvert’s shop, in the Mammoth Luxury Outlet Mall on Main Street, still has some minor finish and decorating work to be done, but saw its first patients during the holiday. A legal medical marijuana cooperative, as specified under the provisions of the State’s Compassionate Use Act and Senate Bill 420, as well as the provisions outlined in Measure M, Calvert said the dispensary’s mission statement is simple: provide “safe, legal access for patients to acquire medication.”
He sees Mammoth Lakes Wellness as a way to remove barriers for patients, many of whom don’t have the space, money or time to cultivate their own cannabis. “There’s a significant amount of time, money and learning curve to growing,” he observed. “People can enjoy growing it, but up here, you’ve got people who rent or are second homeowners, and for year-round growing you need indoor climates, which are costly and require permitting.”
Calvert also pointed out that most patients may not medicate enough to justify growing. Even ML Wellness doesn’t grow anything on-site. Rather, the cooperative gets all of its product from what Calvert said are all “qualified cooperative members.”
The co-op will offer other options for patients who don’t smoke, but still have need of the medication. “We’ll have a full range of products, including tinctures, extracts, oils and edibles,” he said.
By “edibles” he doesn’t mean pot brownies made in the oven at home. Any edibles at the co-op, be they cookies, muffins, brownies or even donuts, will be made in licensed, commercial kitchens that are permitted by the Mono County Health Department.
No plants will be on-site, but the dispensary will have clones, or plant cuttings, available for cooperative members. Such clones are not unlike grapevine cuttings used in the wine industry for crafting new varietals.
Cannabis has a long, storied and controversial history, and the plant has, ironically, been legal in the United States longer than it’s been illegal. “It used to be in every doctor’s medical bag,” Calvert points out. Popular belief is that cannabis became illegal due to its widespread use among the countercultures of jazz musicians, beatniks and hippies, but reality is that big business may have been the culprit.
In the early 20th century, publisher William Randolph Hearst reportedly was heavily tied to Dupont Chemical’s introduction of nylon in the marketplace. As the story goes, large-scale cotton growers joined Hearst and Dupont in a concerted effort to keep hemp from becoming competitive. Cannabis proponents think that the powerful collective launched a very effective demonizing campaign against the plant, one of the best examples of which is the propaganda-ridden, educational-turned-cult classic movie, “Reefer Madness.”
Marijuana bounced back briefly in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, before becoming illegal under the Controlled Substances Act passed during the Nixon administration.
Years later, following passage of Prop 215 and SB 420, Mono County found itself in an odd predicament: without a state-mandated medical marijuana program, it was in violation of state law. Mammoth’s 420 Medicard, the only such office in Mono and Inyo counties that can issue doctors’ recommendations, helped cleared up that problem along with the County. Misinformation about it still persists though. For example, some critics insist that once you’re in the program, you become part of state tracking database. Calvert, whose brother Scott runs 420 Medicard, dismisses such claims. “All records are kept under doctor-patient confidentiality. There’s no state database,” he stated. “If some agency runs a drivers license check, it won’t show whether you have a 420 card or not.”
He’s frank when it comes to certain public misgivings about his own business. “I recognize that some people may have a problem with it. To those opposed, all I can say is, ‘We’ll be here for you if you need us.’”
Calvert was ebullient in his praise for how Measure M was handled. “I’m very pleased that Mammoth did it the right way,” he opined. “The Town wrote the ordinance, went through the whole public process, and got the Town, inspectors, fire department, police department and everyone on board. Mammoth did a fantastic job.”
He particularly applauded the work put in by Klassen, Town Planner Sandra Moberly, Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Dan Watson and Sgt. Marc Moskowitz, and the Town’s Planning Commission members.
… As opposed to Southern California, which lately has found itself in a medical marijuana mess.
“The early ‘business’ model was basically, ‘Let’s open and see what happens,’ essentially the reverse logic of how we did it up here,” Calvert explained. “You had them popping up by the dozens, on every street corner.” Earlier this year, grandfather clauses dated as of November 2007 went into effect in Los Angeles.
When he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama loosened regulations on cooperatives. “Then they evaluated the remaining businesses to see if they met the new laws, like are they 500 feet from a school instead of 1,000 feet.” That led to lawsuits and a raft of closures for various infractions.
Calvert said that’s to be expected. “Places that are getting raided and shut down are breaking the law,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of mess here. That position is echoed by Calvert’s operational staff, John Paulson and Stephanie Giangiordano, who operated a co-op in Long Beach for the past three years.
“We saw that whole mess coming, and were one of the businesses that tried to work with the city and get all our paperwork and permits in order, but it still took Long Beach two years to start catching up,” Paulson said. “It was done all backwards. Then we came up here, and it was completely different. Everything was done up front, the right way.”
Legislatively, since Republican Steve Cooley recently conceded the California’s Attorney General race to Democrat Kamala Harris, Calvert said he doesn’t think much will change, except perhaps on a municipality-by-municipality level. Nationally, he said, if Obama loses in 2012, things COULD change, but added it depends who’s elected. Arizona, he cited as an example, recently legalized medical marijuana and that state’s governed by Jan Brewer, a Republican.
As to Klassen, who will soon open his own dispensary, Calvert said the two may be viewed as competition, which he called “the nature of doing business,” but said their shared goal is the same. “We’re trying to do the right thing for the community,” he said.