When Mammoth Lakes’ voters passed Measure M in June 2010, the town ordinance allowed for two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate.
Of the two originally approved as businesses, Mammoth Lakes Wellness, located in the Outlet Mall complex off Main Street, continues to operate. Green Mammoth, formerly owned by Wave Rave businessman and snowboard professional Steve Klassen, closed its doors late last year, reportedly in response to word that the U.S. Attorney’s office would meet with the Mono County District Attorney’s office over dispensary operations.
That was during a period of crackdown operations on such dispensaries, not only in California but also nationwide, ordered by the federal Department of Justice, which used the federal ban on marijuana cultivation and sale as its predicate for raiding and shutting down numerous approved dispensaries allowed under state and municipal laws.
At that point, Klassen contacted the Mammoth Lakes Police Department and withdrew his application for permit renewal. There was ultimately no direct threat to Mammoth’s dispensaries, but Klassen took a preemptive approach. “Because of conflicting information I can’t continue. I can’t risk imminent closure,” he told the media last November.
Since then, however, the climate has changed somewhat, and what was a shuttered storefront on the rental market has taken a giant step toward opening its doors for business once again. On Wednesday, Mammoth’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a Use Permit for the Green Mammoth/Eastern Sierra Life Cooperative. The restart of Green Mammoth, which according to owner-operator Don Wright Jr., has the full blessing of Klassen, is to be located at 94 Laurel Mountain Road (aka the KMMT building), in the space previously occupied by the old Green Mammoth.
Wright said Klassen has granted access to already pre-existing business items, such as the name and website, among other things. “That’s made a big difference in helping us get started up,” Wright told The Sheet.
Associate Planner Jen Daugherty said the MLPD conducted required background checks on two permit applications, but only Wright’s was deemed in compliance with state law, and municipal and zone codes.
“After five months, I’m amazed and excited that it’s reached this point,” Wright told the Commission. A Class of ’99 Mammoth High School graduate, Wright said he previously worked for Klassen at Wave Rave, and helped with the previous incarnation of Green Mammoth. He also took classes in dispensary management and operation from Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif.
Oaksterdam University is a non-accredited for-profit educational facility and “political institution” founded in November 2007 by medical marijuana activist Richard Lee to offer training for the medical cannabis industry. Oaksterdam proper, an amalgam of the names Oakland and Amsterdam in Holland, where marijuana is legal, is a cultural district where medical cannabis in a variety of forms is available in dispensaries.
“I learned so much at Oaksterdam,” he related. “I learned about the different strains, their effects and applications, and about taxes, regulations, horticulture, and my legal rights and obligations.”
Only one protest was logged via e-mail from Bernie Reid, who voiced opposition to having a cooperative “so close to a residential area, given that there are so many vacant commercial spaces in town.” Reid also wondered whether, even though Measure M allows for two dispensaries, the town really requires more than one distribution center.
Wright said his goal is to offer the “same quality service Klassen did,” with “openness and professional integrity,” and while upholding state and local laws.
“There’s lots of bad cannabis out there,” he opined, talking about the various pests and molds that can ruin plants. “It’s important to have a knowledgeable staff to make sure patients get the best quality, medical grade cannabis.”
He plans to track sales using a point-of-sale system that will keep records on the types of cannabis brought in, as well as patients, be they locals or visitors. Green Mammoth Board member Ron Peterson said a small group of local growers would supply product for a small group of largely local patients. He added that the business has a charity component built into it, to help out with, among other things, public service efforts by the Fire Department and subsidizing a DARE Police program to schools.
In response to The Sheet’s recent column on whether it might be time to tax medical marijuana, Peterson said he’s not opposed to the idea, and has done some research revealing that the law allows business to self tax their sales. Such a move would be voluntary, and both dispensaries could opt to participate. Peterson said once the business is up and running, he intends to look into bringing language to the Town Council for its review.