Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran Changes Views On Medical Marijuana

Keeper of the Weed: Santa Cruz pot shop grows on former military man

Posted: 11/10/2009 06:57:57 AM PST

SANTA CRUZ -- Scott Wade spent the first year of his job at Greenway
Compassionate Relief Inc. worrying that his days as a security officer
would soon be over.

It was 2006, and the George W. Bush administration was adamant that
medical marijuana would not be tolerated, despite California rules
stating otherwise. Wade worried that the Harvey West dispensary would be
raided, and he didn't like watching people he helped arrest on other
security details -- sometimes for smoking pot -- walk through Greenway's
doors to buy medical marijuana.

"Coming to work here, I thought I was throwing away my career," said
Wade, 41, a licensed security guard and former military policeman. "It
just didn't seem right to me for a while."

That was before the staunch Republican and Navy man realized that his
eroded esophagus, torn-up knees and the migraines he suffers from after
serving as an officer in both Gulf wars, Bosnia and Kosovo would qualify
him as a medical marijuana patient, too.

Now, as the Obama administration eases its enforcement of federal drug
rules for the medicinal herb, Wade has become an unlikely spokesman and
head of security for one of the only two dispensaries that might be
allowed inside Santa Cruz city limits, pending new city rules under

"I've been a hypocrite. Who am I to say these people coming in the door
don't have a need for it?" Wade said while wearing dog tags and standing
in front of the giant American and MIA-POW flags in his office.

Wade said he does not smoke himself because his job requires him to be
alert. But after watching amputees, patients in wheelchairs and obvious
cancer sufferers pick up their orders, Wade said he's come to look at
the drug much differently.

"You don't stand in line at Walgreen's pharmacy and judge the people in
front of you," he said.

Wade's office is not what one might predict when walking into a Santa
Cruz medical marijuana dispensary with a neon peace sign in the window.

Along with his flags, the Boulder Creek native and 1987 San Lorenzo
Valley High School graduate has photos of bald eagles, numerous Navy
badges, war pictures that he snapped in the desert and framed stamps and
envelopes commemorating 9/11 rescuers.

"Scott's a military vet and very, very stoked about it. We're musicians
and long hairs," chuckled Greenway security officer Ted Fairbanks, a
member of Wade's staff who is giving Wade guitar lessons.

But Wade commands obvious respect from those he manages. Security
officer Ricardo Perales said Wade "does keep us on our toes," while
security officer Mike Anderson, whose politics are far left of Wade's,
said his boss "keeps me more open-minded" and "helps me see the

Fairbanks agreed, adding that Wade "is not some ideologue goofball."

Greenway owner Lisa Molyneux said she hired Wade because she wanted
someone "of his caliber" to run security. She said she aims to strictly
adhere to state rules governing the drug's sale. Security guards remind
patients that they cannot loiter in the parking lots, and ask them to
hand over cell phones as they walk in. Everyone entering the dispensary
is searched for weapons with the use of a metal-detecting wand.

Wade said Molyneux's high standards attracted him to the business from
First Alarm, the Aptos company where he was a manager. He joined the
security firm after leaving the Navy in late 2002 and returning to Santa
Cruz from Georgia, where he was stationed.

Molyneux "wants to be an example for others to follow," Wade said.

In upcoming months, that example could include a new Greenway garden, as
city officials consider changes to rules governing dispensaries around
town. Under proposed rules, dispensaries would be able to grow pot in
line with state law, which they are not allowed to do now.

However, the number of dispensaries in town would be limited to two,
after a Santa Cruz study showed that only 25 percent of customers at
Greenway and the Santa Cruz Patients Collective live within city limits.
The study followed a surge of interest from entrepreneurs wanting to
open dispensaries after the Obama administration' s decision to relax
federal enforcement.

Wade said he is looking forward to the garden, in part to limit support
of illegal drug cartels that grow marijuana on public land.

"Especially coming from former military, I want to make sure we're not
aiding some cartel," he said.

Wade said he plans to keep Greenway strictly in compliance with state
law, despite the Obama administration' s loosening of federal rules. The
chance of a law enforcement raid remains, Wade said.

Meanwhile, the married father of three said he's happy to be back in
Santa Cruz, regardless of a political climate much different than his
own convictions.

"I joke about this place being so liberal," Wade said. "But really, I've
been all over the world and there's nothing like this town."

http://www.santacru zsentinel. com/ci_13753758

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