City approved marijuana dispensary opens
The first medical marijuana dispensary approved under San Diego county's new ordinance has just opened in the unincorporated area of El Cajon.
The county board of supervisors approved an $11,000 annual fee to allow Mother Nature Healing Alternative Cooperative near Gillespie Field to operate.
“Our number one mission is to provide safe access to people who want a choice on either pharmaceutical drugs or a more natural solution,” Bob Riedel, spokesman of the coop, said. “That is our biggest reason why we are here.”
The cooperative worked closely with San Diego county sheriffs office to open. One of the most notable aspects of the dispensary is the amount of cameras and security present. In addition to cameras, a guard and metal detector are also stationed by the entrance.
“We are a closed network of people. We have some members who cannot grow (marijuana) themselves because of their medical condition and we have some members who can grow more than they need,” Riedel said. “So together, we can put those people together and supply it for everybody.”
According to Riedel, the center is designed to meet the needs of its members, 90 percent of whom are 48 years old and up.
Riedel formerly owned a cooperative center in Fallbrook, however, he said closed that location so he can open one in El Cajon, where the location is in compliance with county regulations. The center is more than 1000 feet away from schools, homes, libraries, parks or churches.
In working with county sheriffs, every detail has been taken to ensure all county ordinances are met.
“It's impossible without bulldozing the front of our building for a child to get into this place and take this medication and start distributing it amongst their friends,” Riedel sad.
Patients must come in with a doctor's recommendation and verified medical condition. Patients under eighteen years of age must be accompanied by a parent in addition to verified documentation from a physician. Transactions are all electronic; no cash is exchanged.
Riedel said he firmly believes that in many cases medical marijuana is a better solution for patients than traditional pharmaceuticals. Riedel cites marijuana is cheaper, a third of the cost of most prescriptions, more effective and not physically addictive.
In response to critics who believe marijuana is a gateway drug, Riedel strongly disagreed.
“It's like saying milk is the gateway to alcohol,” Riedel said. “That's how extreme marijuana is to these hard drugs that are out there.”
However, Riedel said he understands there will always be critics of medicinal marijuana and varying support for dispensaries.
“I don't expect to get 'we approve' from a lot of these organizations,” Riedel admitted. “But I do hope that one day we could have…mutually beneficial coexistence.”