Monday, December 21, 2009

Riverside dispensary operates even without permission

The Press-Enterprise

Three weeks after opening, the sole medical marijuana source in the city
of Riverside has no shortage of customers.

The Inland Empire Health and Wellness Center Medical Marijuana
Collective, which opened Dec. 5 on North Main Street, requires a
doctor's recommendation for marijuana and is open only to members.

After starting with about 150 members, collective general manager
William Sump said Friday, "We'll probably hit 500 today."

Organizers describe the collective as a farmer's market in which vendors
who grow the drug can sell it to other patients. The collective takes a
small cut of the money to cover expenses.

Riverside officials have maintained that city zoning forbids medical
marijuana facilities of any kind, but Sump said city officials and law
enforcement have not contacted him since the facility opened.

Within 10 minutes of the collective's 11 a.m. opening time Friday,
nearly a dozen people crowded the lobby area, filling out paperwork to
become members or having their IDs checked if they were returning
patients. A security guard waved a metal detecting wand over members
before letting them past the front counter.

Among those waiting was David Stone, a 47-year-old Riverside resident
who arrived in a wheelchair and wearing a Santa hat.

He said he has used medical marijuana for two years to alleviate
prostate problems, lymphoma, lower back pain and other medical issues.
Of all the dispensaries he's used, "I like this facility better than all
of them."

The prices are better and the location is closer to home, he said.

"They helped me out last time I came in. I told them I'm hurting and I
didn't have a lot of money," and the vendor gave him a deal, Stone said.

For the first hour, Sump bustled around answering questions, taking
calls on his cell phone and looking for extra tables to accommodate more

Since the first weekend -- the collective is open Friday through Sunday
-- the number of vendors has risen along with the number of patients.
Craig Crawley, 51, of Temecula said he's been selling at the collective
all three weeks and saw vendors increase from about five the first day
to 15 last Friday.

Crawley has been cultivating marijuana for 36 years. He also works with
dispensaries where he drops off his product and someone sells it for
him, he said, so he's excited about being able to interact directly with
patients at the collective.

"The goal here is to get affordable medicine to patients," he said.

The city has said the collective isn't allowed and the Riverside County
district attorney's position is that such facilities generally are
illegal, but whether enforcement is planned is unknown.

"If there's going to be a city action, it would be on the legal front
through the police department," City Councilman Mike Gardner said. "I
don't know whether there is a plan to do that or not."

District attorney's spokesman John Hall on Friday would not confirm or
deny any investigation into the Riverside facility.

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