Monday, March 29, 2010

Sacramento Seminar Tells How to Go Legal with Medical Marijusana Business

Published in the Sacramento Bee

After he was laid off as a supervisor for a fiber optics company, John Stenner started growing his own marijuana two years ago because he couldn't afford to buy medical pot he uses for pain.

Now proud of his home-grown "Grape Ape" and "Blue Dream" pot strains, he turned out Saturday at a unique seminar on how to get into the legal cannabis business.

He showed up at the Medical Cannabis Sacramento Seminar for three hours of classes on marijuana laws, pot dispensary operations, taxation rules and some tips on how to make nice with the police.

The crowd that filled a small classroom for the $125 seminar included people who grow for themselves and want to become medical cultivators. Others looked to pot as an opportunity for relief from the down economy.

The forum, sponsored by a medical marijuana advocacy group, Crusaders for Patients Rights, drew the likes of Eric Weber, an El Dorado County tomato, cucumber and peach farmer who hopes to turn to a new cash crop.

And there was Don Puglisi, an ex-San Diego County real estate broker who moved to Shingle Springs after the mortgage crisis because "the recession took my business away from me."

Lanette Davis, whose family operates Canna Care medical cannabis dispensary, and lawyer David K. Brock reviewed marijuana case law and guidelines from the state attorney general's office.

They answered questions from Stenner, 42, of Sacramento on how to get a seller's permit – and pay sales tax – and on the rules for transporting weed to the market.

Brock said anyone growing or transporting pot should carry documentation on medical users they serve. And Davis cautioned: "Use common sense. I personally wouldn't have 70 pounds of marijuana in my truck driving down the street. I just wouldn't."

She told a man inquiring about a business license to open a dispensary in Sacramento about the city's moratorium against new pot shops. The city, with 39 registered dispensaries, is considering capping the number at 12 and imposing strict requirements on their operations.

Davis advised would-be medical pot entrepreneurs to follow the law. She suggested that those opening marijuana businesses invite their friendly neighborhood narcotics officers to visit.

"If you're doing everything right and you're proud of it, bring them over," she said.

Stenner, who said he bought books on growing pot, combed the Internet and ultimately learned "by trial and error," said he'll look elsewhere if he can't open a dispensary in Sacramento or in the county.

He said losing his job "forced me to look at another way" to make a living. Having learned to grow his own pot, he said, "I need to make a legal business out of it."

Weber, who treats himself with marijuana for knee surgeries and broken discs from all-terrain vehicle and surfing mishaps, began growing for himself and three others.

He wants to provide pot to dispensaries – or sell it on the open market if California votes in November to legalize marijuana for adults over 21.

"People are going to need good cannabis," he said.


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