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SLO County’s cannabis ‘pioneers’: Women-owned business first in area to get state license

Tami Peluso, left, and Cynthia Gonzalez co-founded Elite Care California, the only marijuana business in San Luis Obispo County to have obtained a state license, but it was revoked this month over a dispute over location of its storage warehouse.
Tami Peluso, left, and Cynthia Gonzalez co-founded Elite Care California, the only marijuana business in San Luis Obispo County to have obtained a state license, but it was revoked this month over a dispute over location of its storage warehouse. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A women-owned medical marijuana provider is the first business in San Luis Obispo County — and one of the first in California — to receive a state license to sell cannabis.

“I’m very excited. We’re going to continue to provide the service that many sick people need,” said Tami Peluso, who co-owns Elite Care California with Cynthia Gonzalez. “Now we can do it on a much bigger scale.”

The Arroyo Grande-based delivery service received temporary state license number 0000001 for a medical “non-storefront retailer” from the Bureau of Cannabis Control in December, and the owners plan to apply this week for a license to sell adult-use (or recreational) cannabis.

Their primary focus is providing care plans with high-quality cannabis products that have gone through rigorous testing to patients suffering from chronic pain.

They founded the enterprise in San Francisco in 2014 after a bad — and expensive — experience attempting to acquire cannabis for Peluso’s mother, who suffered from cancer.

“We thought people deserve something better,” Peluso said.

Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.

Now they serve several hundred patients on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, many who come to them by a recommendation from a physician.

For some of those patients, who suffer from debilitating ailments like fibromyalgia, using a cannabis tincture or bath salts to relieve pain or address insomnia has meant switching from a medicine chest filled with traditional prescription medication to a substance with a stigma.

“It was presented in such a compelling way to be such a horrible thing. And it was done for so many decades and so many generations,” Gonzalez said.

To those who still view marijuana as a bad street drug, Gonzalez said, “I would share that I should be talking to them from a wheelchair.”

She said she began using cannabis as a teenager to manage back pain.

“In my case, I can speak to conviction. It has saved my life,” Gonzalez said.

Having a state license counters some of the social stigma and helps “patients feel more at ease,” she said.

The path to their success in the new era of regulation was not accidental.

More than a year ago, the women used their backgrounds in marketing for Fortune 500 companies and set their agenda on education and advocacy. For months, they rallied patients to explain to the Arroyo Grande City Council the importance of cannabis medicine to their quality of life.

That paid off. Last summer, they became the first locally permitted cannabis business in the county.

“I’ve been waiting 46 years for this moment for legalization and to actually be one of the primary pioneers, it was definitely a tear-shedding moment,” Gonzalez said of clearing that first hurdle.

But it’s all still just the ground floor in their eyes.

“I predict that you will see some form of medical cannabis in every medical chest in the country for dealing with a chronic condition,” Gonzalez said.

The nearest cannabis retail shop to San Luis Obispo is 140 miles away. Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine is licensed to sell cannabis products to any adult over 21 with an ID in 2018.

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