[UPDATED:] Medical Marijuana Providers Fight Back After Costa Mesa Busts
UPDATE: More information on the "Southern California Healing & Compassion Expo" (or lack thereof) below . . .
"Beginning Monday March 1, our office hours will be from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, instead of 10 a.m. daily," declares an online listing for Nutritional Concepts, a medical marijuana dispensary inside a Bristol Avenue medical building in Costa Mesa.
The hours have certainly changed. Following a Costa Mesa police raid Thursday, Nutritional Concepts, Live Well O.C. and Med Mar Patient Care Collective have been ordered to cease and desist operations.
The orders were served by code enforcement officers because Costa Mesa municipal law has prohibited medical marijuana sales since 2005, police say.
"The Costa Mesa Police Department will continue to investigate businesses in the city that are engaging in this unlawful activity," reads a statement released today by police Lt. Mark Manley.
Costa Mesa apparently coordinated its raid with at least one other Orange County police agency (more details below).
For their part, dispensary operators are not taking the police actions lying down, with or without herbal assistance.
"The patients want and need us here," said Jordan T. Wallick, general manager of MedMar Patient Care at 440 Fair Drive. "We are legal under the state laws and we are going to fight to stay open."
He is also organizing a protest in front of Costa Mesa City Hall at 11 a.m. Saturday that he hopes will draw hundreds of medical marijuana patients, providers and cannabis legalization advocates.
Costa Mesa police headquarters is next to City Hall, and across the street is the Orange County Fair & Events Center, where Wallick says the Southern California Healing & Compassion Expo will be held Saturday. Organizers estimate 13,000 people will attend the expo, where the highlight will be something called the "Cannabis Cup."
But a spokeswoman at the fairgrounds says nothing called the Southern California Healing & Compassion Expo is booked for this weekend or any weekend in the near future.
Sometimes, the spokeswoman said, events are held under another promoter's larger event, but the fair staff could find nothing fitting the description of an event that would include something like a healing and compassion expo.
Among those hoping public pressure prompts the city to back off on thwarting compassionate use is Sheryll Alexander, a Costa Mesa publicist and Med Mar Patient Collective patient.
"The city of Costa Mesa says they don't have the proper business license even though they have a license for 'pain management,'" Alexander says. "Another collective in the same building was served with the same 48-hour comply notice. Plus, the city of Westminister also served Med Mar's clinic in Westminister on the exact same day, so it sounds like these city officials are working together."
That's bad news to several pain sufferers, according Alexander, who desperately pleads in an email, " I want my MEDS, man!!"
Besides being located in a professional medical building, Nutritional Concepts includes a retired registered nurse on staff. A visitor rating the dispensary on WeedMaps.com writes, "I say that it's a good dispensary for the elderly because, from what I understand, older individuals tend to go for the medium to lower tier bud; nothing too strong, which this dispensary was chalked full of for ridiculous prices."
The critic had a problem with the location, saying one had to pass through many doors to reach the office, and the quality of the weed, "[b]ut, besides that, it had a nice atmosphere and the people were nice and helpful. So kudos on that."
"Thank you for your compliments on our atmosphere and helpful staff," states the "official collective response." "We have many patients in a wide range of age categories that enjoy the comfort and safety of our environment as well as the professional advice and high quality of our medicines. If customers have mobility issues, when they call, we make accommodations for them to receive their medicine. We are proud of our appeal to mature patients as well as younger individuals in need."
Now those patients have to go somewhere else.