Klassen shuts down medical marijuana dispensary
Medical marijuana patients who were clients of Green Mammoth, one of Mammoth Lakes’ two medicinal cannabis dispensaries, were surprised to learn of the sudden closure of the business late last month.
Reports indicate that on Nov. 22, Green Mammoth proprietor Steve Klassen decided to cease operation at the business, located at 94 Laurel Mountain Rd. Klassen was a key part in passage of Measure M in June 2010, which 56% of Town voters approved. The ordinance made it legal for a maximum of two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
Klassen declined to comment on his decision, but a statement posted on the door of the business read as follows: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Green Mammoth Natural Healing Collective is now closed. It has been our pleasure to serve our patients over the last year. We are truly sorry that we cannot continue to be able to provide for your medical needs. Please support all efforts to end cannabis prohibition. Please never forget what we made possible here.”
As early as this past February, The Sheet reported that the Mono County DA’s office had explored ways to shut down the dispensaries over various concerns. Local Mammoth Lakes lawmakers expressed concerns at the time that the dispensaries were overstepping their “specific, limited purpose” – that of providing medical marijuana to members, and using it as a platform to spread the gospel of marijuana to an “entourage of stoners.” Green Mammoth disputed those claims, saying it was in complete compliance with local laws, and revealing that the average age of its patients was between 34 and 37, the youngest 21, the oldest 78.
In October, federal prosecutors launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in California, and several other states with similar medical marijuana laws. Stores were told in no uncertain terms they must shut down in 45 days or face
criminal charges and confiscation of their property, even if they were operating legally under the state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law (AB 215, aka Prop 215).
The feds have utilized a number of tactics to bring pressure to bear on several medical marijuana operations statewide, including having the Internal Revenue Service rescind tax breaks and other deductions for such operations.
“I’m very disappointed in President Obama’s administration reversing its position and letting the DOJ run rampant spending millions of dollars on this while we have debt and recession,” commented former Town of Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioner Tony Barrett. Barrett helped write the language for Measure M.
The irony, Barrett added, is that [Green Mammoth] followed the state’s Prop 215 requirements to the letter and beyond, yet the feds and attorneys are finding backdoor ways to get at this. The result, he posited, could push medical marijuana patients back into a back-alley abortion type scenario, which is what Medical Marijuana laws were designed to avoid.
One Green Mammoth patient spoke to The Sheet on condition of anonymity, saying they sympathize with Klassen.
“I immediately had an anxiety attack and started crying, and thought, ‘I’m going to have to risk my life to feel better.’ It’s dumb politics. It’s unfair that the small man has to take the brunt of politics that’s done in the big umbrella that hangs over our heads every day,” the patient said. “I work 40 hours a week, so I’m not jobless just vegging on the sofa playing Wii and hitting a bong. I rely on it to function in society, as do millions of people with cancer and other maladies. And the big pharmaceuticals companies are lobbying to have control over a natural plant we can grow ourselves, just so we’ll be forced to buy their products. If smoking brussel sprout leaves cured cancer, [Big Pharma] would be monopolizing those, too.”
Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Dan Watson confirmed that Klassen would not be renewing his permit for operation, which expires in mid-December. Chief Watson added that during the time Green Mammoth had been in operation, no citations had been issued or arrests made at the facility.
Mammoth Lakes Wellness (now the only dispensary in Mammoth) owner Robert Calvert said he has submitted a permit renewal application to the Town. In the meanwhile, he prefers to simply let the attorneys do their work on the matter. “There are a lot of very smart attorneys working on this,” Calvert commented, “and I’m just not as qualified [as they are] to comment on it.”
On Nov. 29, Mono County District Attorney George Booth’s office met with Eastern District U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District to discuss the Federal law enforcement position on medical marijuana store fronts, dispensaries and growing operations, that are covered under California’s Medical Marijuana laws.
In a summary of the meeting from Mono Assistant District Attorney Tim Kendall, Wagner reiterated his standing position that his office’s interest is “enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously sick people,” and has “no intention of interfering with medical marijuana patient rights or their legal access to medical marijuana.”
That said, Wagner’s opinion is that all commercial marijuana operations, including marijuana grows, marijuana stores and mobile delivery services are illegal and generate huge profits and are no more than criminal enterprises. Wagner’s enforcement action would consist of “letters of warning to owners and property holders that their marijuana activity is illegal and subjects them to further action if continued.”