A Nipomo medical marijuana dispensary could be on the horizon — although the owner may face an uphill battle as she prepares to possibly go in front of a county Board of Supervisors that has never approved a brick-and-mortar dispensary.
In the eight years since the county approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries under specific conditions, the Board of Supervisors has rejected all three proposals that have come before it: one in Templeton in 2008, one in Nipomo in 2010 and another in Oceano in 2012.
Stephanie Kiel, who operates a mobile medical marijuana dispensary, said she thinks the time is right for her to open a brick-and-mortar dispensary in San Luis Obispo County.
“I think minds and hearts are starting to change,” she said, noting Colorado’s 2012 decision to legalize recreational marijuana. “In the county — but in the country as well — the perception of medical cannabis and even just cannabis in general is changing.”
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Kiel is proposing a 2,500-square-foot physical medical marijuana dispensary at 2122 Hutton Road in Nipomo, near the edge of the county line. She is scheduled to present her plans tonight to the South County Advisory Council, which advises the Planning Commission.
She said the Nipomo location follows the Board of Supervisors’ 2007 guidelines for where a dispensary can be located: It cannot be in a downtown business area or within 1,000 feet of any school, library, playground, park or youth recreation area.
The location has the added benefit of being easily accessible to residents in Santa Maria, where medical marijuana dispensaries — both fixed and mobile — are banned.
“We’ve taken a long, hard look at the SLO County ordinance and checked this location against every rule they have there,” Kiel said. “I’m very confident that we have no problem there. This is a great location for this.”
Kiel has several years of experience in the medical cannabis industry: She founded the Ethnobotanica Patient’s Cooperative — also known as “The Pot Deli” — in 2009. The business delivers medical cannabis to roughly 3,500 cardholders in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, with about two-thirds of her customers being from San Luis Obispo County.
Customers are required to undergo a verification process either online or by phone before becoming members of the cooperative.
Kiel, who lives in Santa Cruz, said her mobile business grosses about $2 million in sales per year. If opened, she thinks the Nipomo dispensary could earn between $3 million and $8 million in sales, depending on whether other storefront dispensaries open in the county.
As part of her proposal, Kiel has suggested that county supervisors adopt a 5 percent sales tax on medical marijuana, which from Ethnobotanica alone could add approximately $150,000 to the county’s coffers.
The proposed site would require customers to pass through two checkpoints before being allowed onto the dispensary sales floor, and it would be monitored by a 24-hour video security system.
The site also would be watched by an unarmed security guard during opening, closing and business hours, Kiel said, as well as a night-watch patrol for off hours.
There’s a long road ahead of Kiel before the dispensary could open, however.
In addition to a historical lack of support by supervisors for dispensaries in the unincorporated county, most cities have regulations against medical cannabis dispensaries. San Luis Obispo is the only city without an ordinance banning dispensaries, though they are not listed in its municipal code as an allowed use and are therefore considered prohibited.
Kiel recently submitted a 114-page application to the county detailing her business plans, security and safety measures, employee training and design elements.
Once the South County Advisory Council makes its recommendation, the plan moves to the county Planning Commission.
The commission has had a divided response to dispensaries in the past. Since 2007, it has approved two plans for dispensaries (in Templeton and Oceano) and denied the Nipomo proposal in 2010. Both of the approved plans were subsequently overturned by county supervisors.
The commission would have the final say on whether the dispensary is given the go-ahead, unless an appeal is filed with the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors rejected the Templeton dispensary proposal because they thought it was too close to a playground and didn’t fit with the character of the community. The Nipomo proposal was said to be too close to a gymnastics studio that children attended, and the Oceano plan was deemed too close to residential neighborhoods.
Fourth District Supervisor Lynn Compton said she would not comment on the proposal until it comes before the Board of Supervisors, though she will attend the SCAC meeting Monday night to hear community comments.
Compton said she thinks the county “will have increasingly more interest in such projects in the future.”
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
What: The South County Advisory Council will consider Stephanie Kiel’s proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 2122 Hutton Road in Nipomo.
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Nipomo Community Services District building, 148 S. Wilson St.