Growing Pains at Otherside Farms

Chadd McKeen helps medical-pot patients grow their own, while openly bashing some weed dispensaries

Asked how collective members too ill to grow or travel are supposed to get the marijuana, she replied, “That’s an excellent question.” After a pause, she added, “I suppose there are other ways you could particpate in cultivation. I’m not sure how.”

She was unaware of any businesses operating in Costa Mesa as “true collectives,” arguing that state law does not legalize their right to exist, it only allows them a defense to criminal charges. “This point gets lost a lot in discussions,” she said. “Under state law, transportation of marijuana is still illegal and sales are still illegal. . . . All of the businesses [in Costa Mesa] that have been ordered to cease and desist” were served “after investigations determined they were not complying with state or federal law.”

McKeen says his lawyers have “attempted numerous times to sit down with the city” to discuss the collective side of Otherside Farms, only to be told the city’s attorneys “don’t have time.”

Chadd McKeen is not just a medical-marijuana farmer. He's also a patient
Keith May
Chadd McKeen is not just a medical-marijuana farmer. He's also a patient
Through a window at OtherSide Farms, patients can see the grow room for the McKeens' medical marijuana
Keith May
Through a window at OtherSide Farms, patients can see the grow room for the McKeens' medical marijuana

“I find that odd since the city is being sued—a lot—and to me, that’s worthy of a conversation, at least,” McKeen says.

His deliveries range from Long Beach to South Orange County, and they can be made within 45 minutes of orders from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily—for a $10 delivery fee. All recipients must be verified medical-cannabis-patient members, and McKeen says he has put several measures in place to ensure deliveries comply with state law, such as making sure the identification of the patient matches that of the resident of the home being delivered to, or that nothing be dropped off to minors, even those who are patient members of the collective. This includes a 10-year-old autistic patient who was given six months to live.

“His meds kept him from eating, and he was wasting away,” McKeen says. “His mother refused to allow this and searched everywhere for answers. A doctor suggested a [loaded] brownie, and from that day forward, Joey began to speak, he doubled his weight and grew several inches. This was all over a year ago, and he is no longer in danger of passing away.”

Otherside Farms also works with a nonprofit that procures medical marijuana for HIV-positive patients for free. McKeen reports he will soon join the agency’s board of directors.

“I am the man with the plan,” McKeen states. “The problem is, the cities are perfectly content fighting the lawsuits, which is ridiculous given the current state of our economy.”

*     *     *

Helping patients grow their own is personal to the McKeen family, which includes two sons and a daughter. Alysha McKeen recently completed her second round of chemotherapy to treat skin cancer. She previously had three large growths removed, according to her husband.

“That’s my angel,” he says from inside the grow room and out of her earshot. “She never shows she is suffering, but one day, I saw her sitting at her desk, and she was crying due to the pain. It killed me, man. That’s why we do this. It’s important.”

When McKeen—trim, athletic and good-natured with a playful twinkle in his eye—mentions he once battled depression and still suffers from migraines and chronic pain from a shoulder he injured while working at Knott’s Berry Farm, it’s difficult to fathom.

A former weed dealer from his days fronting a band, McKeen had sworn off drugs because of what they were doing to his body and personality. But he became interested in medical marijuana again when California voters overwhelmingly passed Prop. 215.

Despite the “sketchy” information that was around in those days, McKeen taught himself the intricacies of growing marijuana the safe, all-organic way. He now visits five grow rooms per week, coming up with ways to help his clients produce better yields.

But it is patients like Joey, the autistic 10-year-old, who keep McKeen crisscrossing the county, helping regular folks grow their own medicine. Most are elderly, terminally ill, living with HIV/AIDS, former cops and even local celebrities.

Alysha McKeen, now in earshot, chimes in when she hears her husband asked about the typical Otherside Farms customers. “Actually, most of them look like you,” she says to the nearing-50 interviewer. “Most are men between 35 and 60.”

“We want to put a full-length mirror in the store right there,” Chadd McKeen says as he points to a spot next to the front entrance. “Above it, it will say, ‘This is what the typical medical-marijuana patient looks like.’”

mcoker@ocweekly.com

This article appeared in print as "Growing Pains: Costa Mesa’s Otherside Farms helps patients cultivate their own medical marijuana without ever having to visit a dispensary. Guess who has a problem with that?"

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