Thursday, October 29, 2009
Lake Forrest Clinic Has Great Neighbor Policy With Pastor
Pot vendor promises peace with pastor
Earth Cann Wellness Center says it won't tolerate rule-breakers.
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE
The Orange County Register
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
LAKE FOREST – On Wednesday morning, George Covarrubias patrolled the
parking lot around Earth Cann Wellness Center.
The 40-year-old former boxer, restaurant-owner and construction worker
is the newest line of defense the medical marijuana collective has taken
to comply with allegations from nearby Chapel Calvary that its patrons
are purchasing pot and partying in the adjacent church lot.
Covarrubias' presence paid off. By noon he'd told a handful of people
not to hang out in the parking lot in their cars. He made sure that if
they were legitimate dispensary patrons, they weren't loitering.
The owners of Earth Cann say they have a zero tolerance to any illegal
activities and are doing everything the can to be good neighbors.
"We had no idea members of the collective were parking in their cars and
partying in the church lot," said Shannon Saccullo, 43, who with her
husband founded the collective as a way to provide an alternative for
people with chronic health issues. "We want to get away from the
riff-raff of kids that smoke pot."
Since learning of Calvary Chapel's allegations last week, Earth Cann has
stepped up enforcement by hiring two security guards who patrol the
premises during the collective's hours of operations. They also have
revoked 12 memberships of people who have broken the rules of the
David Saccullo, 48, a developer, has also talked with Pastor Jim Misiuk
and apologized for any problems. He also asked Misiuk to inform him
first of anything that might pose a future problem rather than going to
the city first.
"I'm just concerned with results and my main concern is still young
people having availability to purchase the drugs," said Misiuk. "If that
is stopped that's great. We have to wait and see what the results are.
How this stuff is regulated so it gets into the right hands — that's
All club members must show verification from their doctor that they are
entitled to use medical marijuana. They must also show personal
identification. A call is also put in from Earth Cann to the doctor's
office before any product is given out. Once the product is dispensed it
must remain sealed until the person has gotten home. It must also be
transported in the trunk of a car.
David Welch, a Los Angeles-based attorney who helped set the collective
up in July when it opened, said that the membership club is operating
completely within state law.
"The collective is allowed by state law to cultivate, possess and
facilitate transactions among members," he said. "We obtained sellers
permits for the sale of marijuana and the landlord was apprised of the
facility. Zoning in this business park allows this organization. The
city is trying to enforce federal law despite the fact that the federal
government has chosen not to enforce the law themselves."
Lake Forest is currently seeking to close at least 21 medical marijuana
dispensaries in the city, including Earth Cann. On Sept. 1, the city
filed complaints against 35 people associated with 14 dispensaries –
and now the number of dispensaries being pursued is about 21.
Jeff Dunn, a partner with Best, Best & Krieger representing the city in
the medical marijuana cases, said that since the complaints have been
filed six dispensaries have closed but one to three new ones have sprung
up. In some cases, landlords of the locations where the dispensaries
operate are pursuing legal efforts themselves, Dunn said.
"We are not challenging state law, we're just saying within our city
this is not an allowable use whether they are in compliance or not,"
said Dunn. "State law does not require the city to allow medical
marijuana dispensaries. "
Welch acknowledged that the city filed papers against Earth Cann on Oct.
22. but said the dispensary has not yet been served. He also planning to
sue the city Thursday, contending it is trying to enforce an ordinance
that violates the state constitution.
"The city has threatened that landlords will be prosecuted if they do
not enforce the ordinance," said Welch. "They are creating animosity
toward Earth Cann, telling other businesses that they cannot get
conditional use permits to move into the business park because of Earth
Dunn said the dispensary cannot sue a city for enforcing its own city
code. He added that before it sued the dispensaries, it notified their
landlords that medical marijuana dispensaries wouldn't be allowed in the
city. Earth Cann's landlord has begun eviction proceedings against it,
The Sacullos decided to form the collective after Shannon Sacullo was
prescribed Prozac following postpartum depression with her second child.
"I was feeling depressed and anxious and I couldn't sleep," said the
stay-at-home mother of two. "I didn't feel that yummy feeling with my
baby. I was put on Prozac and felt numb. Three years later I'm at 80 mg
per day – that's super high. I started researching alternative
medicines. I found marijuana and it was natural. I did that for a little
bit and it helped me get off the chemicals. I haven't used Prozac in
But when the Sacullos looked for dispensaries to get the cannabis they
"They were shady, it made you feel like you were going to glorified drug
dealers," said David Sacullo. "We decided to make it what it should be.
A place where you don't feel ashamed and you get help."
Earth Cann is a nonprofit funded entirely by its membership. The
collective grows its own crop in Northern California on family land in
green houses and indoors. Some of the products available at Earth Cann
are pure THC oil, fine grade edibles, a soda line, salad dressings and
There are about 2,000 members, including patients with cancer, cerebral
palsy, terminal liver disease as well as veterans from the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
Kim Byers, from Costa Mesa, has found a haven at Earth Cann.
"I've stopped going to other places once I found this," said Byers, 58,
who suffers from nerve damage. "It's been distinguished and
professional. When I went to other places it felt shady and under-the
counter — like the stuff comes from who-knows-where. "
What bothers the Sacullos and Welch most is that the city seems to have
lumped their collective in with others.
"Unlike others we are functioning legally, Welsh said. "The city has
grouped us with others that may be illegal."
Contact the writer: 949-454-7307 or eritchie@ocregister .com
http://www.ocregist er.com/articles/ city-earth- cann-2627667- dispensaries- \