Marijuana dispensary near Nipomo hits snag

A county resident’s plan to open a medical marijuana collective near Nipomo was brought to a halt after the building owners — including former local lawmaker and Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado — indicated they had never agreed to lease or sell the property for that use.

In October, David Rosenthal submitted an application to the San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department for a permit to open a collective at 115 Cuyama Lane that would also include some holistic health services and classes.

Rosenthal said Monday that private discussions with the property owner, Santa Maria-based Tri-M Rental Group, will continue.

But Maldonado, a partner in Tri-M Rental Group with his father and brother, said Rosenthal had never been authorized to use the property. He said his father, Abel Maldonado Sr., had declined the request because of concerns that the federal government could seize their property.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we would lose an asset because of some tenant who didn’t follow the strict rules of the federal and state government,” Maldonado said.

But Maldonado added that as a former state assemblyman and senator, he had heard from constituents who used medical marijuana to cope with pain, and believes those with terminal illnesses and chronic pain who received relief from the drug should use it.

In a previous interview, Rosenthal said he sought to provide a stable, safe location where ill patients could seek support from community services and classes, and obtain medical cannabis. He is a cancer patient who has served about 400 patients in the county through his collective, TerraFarma, this past year.

On Monday, Rosenthal declined to comment on whether he had acquired a lease or rental agreement from Tri-M Rental Group.

“We moved forward with the application based on information that we had at the time,” he said, adding that Kirby Gordon, a Pismo Beach-based attorney and broker, was involved in the discussions with the company. Gordon was out of town and could not be reached for comment Monday.

It was unclear what would happen to Rosenthal’s current application; the county planner who received his application could not be reached for comment.

“It will either happen or it won’t,” Rosenthal said. “But I’m not saying that it’s dead.”

The South County Advisory Council, a volunteer group representing the Nipomo area, was scheduled to discuss the application at its meeting Monday but did not plan to make a recommendation to county planners until January.

Rosenthal was the second person to propose a medical marijuana collective in the county this year. The first, Oceano resident Tammy Murray, saw her project approved by county planning commissioners Nov. 3. It was appealed to the Board of Supervisors two weeks later; the board will likely hear the appeal in early February.

In the past, such projects have not fared well after appeals. In the past three years, supervisors have shot down proposals in Nipomo and Templeton.

The issue of regulating medical marijuana dispensaries is playing out in cities and counties throughout California, with some taking steps to limit or ban such facilities.

The legality of medical marijuana operations remains murky. While California voters approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996, the federal government continues to consider marijuana use a crime.

Maldonado suggested that the supervisors should decide whether they want to allow medical marijuana collectives in the county or temporarily restrict them until the state and federal government clarify the law.

As a state legislator, Maldonado, a Republican representing the Central Coast, voted against a resolution to urge Congress to secure state’s rights to regulate medical cannabis, and against the 2004 bill that established the program for issuance of identification cards to patients qualified to use medical marijuana, according to research provided by Ellen Komp, deputy director of nonprofit organization California NORML — National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He also voted against a resolution in 2008 that would have urged Congress to require federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, to respect a state’s compassionate use laws regarding medical marijuana.

He did, however, vote in favor of a bill to set up a research program for medical marijuana, and another one that would have established a demonstration hemp cultivation program in four counties (San Luis Obispo County was not one of them).

Maldonado has announced his intention to seek the congressional seat now held by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.