Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

May 10, 2010
Capital pot club seeks survival with its next-to-nothing location

unityowners.JPGIt isn't often when a new business in the community boasts that it isn't close to anything.

But that is the happy claim of the Unity Non-Profit Collective in Sacramento.

The medical marijuana dispensary, anonymously tucked in the back of an industrial park near Business-80, argues that it is just one of three pot outlets that comply with guidelines under a proposed dispensary ordinance in the capital city.

Founders Don and Ke Johnson say they serve the medicinal needs of a network of 3,000 medical marijuana patients out of a location, off Tribute Road, that isn't anywhere near any "sensitive areas" - schools, churches, parks, youth facilities or substance abuse centers.

With 39-registered marijuana dispensaries in town, and rumors of more setting up, the Sacramento City Council is considering a plan to impose a cap of a dozen pot shops. They would be chosen by a lottery amongst the registered dispensaries.

The Johnsons argue they should survive because their establishment meets city staff goals for regulating the local medical pot industry.

Notably, City Council member Steve Cohn has taken issue with the idea that pot clubs should be left to industrial parks or even less desirable areas for medical marijuana patients. Despite arguments by Council colleagues that pot clubs be scattered roughly equally around town, Cohn says a higher concentration of dispensaries should be allowed in the mid-town area, closest to mass transit.

Don Johnson, 33, is a former general contractor who began using medical marijuana after breaking his back. Ke Johnson is a former real estate agent uses pot for relief from migraines.

They say they are now modestly-compensated marijuana providers and advocates, with Don getting $1,500 monthly and Ke, the manager, $2,500 monthly to run the dispensary.

They started their patients' collective after attending from Oaksterdam University, Oakland's acclaimed pot trades school, and learning the ropes for collectives, dispensaries, marijuana law, cultivation and "cooking to bud management," Don Johnson says.

"I was the valedictorian," he says. "But she (Ke) did all my homework."

Pictured: Don and Ke Johnson handle inventory at the Unity Non-Profit Collective. Peter Hecht/phecht@sacbee.com

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