As medical marijuana zoning issues in Mammoth Lakes head to the ballot in June, it came to light that one group of Eastern Sierra residents has quietly operated what they believe to be a fully legal medical marijuana cooperative for almost eight years.
While the idea of medical marijuana may lead to rolling eyes and an image of a 20 year old patient smoking pot on a chair lift, the Eastern Sierra Center for Holistic Wellness takes this issue seriously, so seriously that they have hired a lawyer to make sure that the group is above board and within the law. The group also hopes to move out of the shadows if Mammoth’s Measure M is approved by voters.
John Manzano, the Attorney for the Eastern Sierra Center for Holistic Wellness uses the latest guidelines from the State Attorney Generals Office to ensure that the group is within the law. Often the issue boils down to the fact that medical marijuana is illegal to sell and illegal to use for profit. Manzano explained that the group is a state certified Mutual Benefit Corporation. He says that the prices are set to compensate for the costs of the medication, and administration of the co-op (which include paying a lawyer.) Any money left over is distributed to members based on how much business the member did within the co-op. The co-op is run entirely by volunteers.
As this group takes a step into the public eye, the Eastern Sierra Center for Holistic Health has created a website for members and potential new members, which states that the group will deliver medical marijuana to Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Mono County, Bishop and Big Pine along with surrounding communities.
Manzano says that access to medical marijuana has been abused, but he says that the Eastern Sierra Center for Holistic Wellness is a group of seriously ill people. The co-op screens its members carefully to ensure that they have a valid recommendation. He describes members with diabetes, and another with missing discs in their back. 15 of the 25 co-op members are over 60 years old, Manzano explained.
The Eastern Sierra Center for Holistic Wellness works to differentiate themselves from the dispensaries in Southern California that Manzano says are often supplied by organized crime. This group is supplied by members who grow their own marijuana locally and organically, often in their homes.
This is one of the reasons that the co-op has started to take a more public tact. If Measure M passes in Mammoth Lakes, the group would like to apply for one of the permits that would allow the group to move the production out of their homes and into a place like the industrial park in Mammoth that would be legally zoned to allow this type of operation.
Manzano says that he has been working with the Town of Mammoth Lakes on Measure M, including making numerous public comments at meetings on the topic. He says that he has not spoken with local law enforcement about the issue, but he is more than willing to do so.