At Sacramento's A Therapeutic Alternative dispensary, Buddy, an aging Jack Russell Terrier with a bum leg, is a soothing prop for pet therapy sessions for medical marijuana users suffering from mental illnesses.
But now Buddy is going to have to find new working quarters - and so is his master - under a new Sacramento medical marijuana ordinance, reported on in Sunday's Sacramento Bee. It will allow up to 38 pot clubs to survive in the capital city, but put strict rules on their operations, and force at least a half a dozen to relocate.
While as many as 32 existing marijuana stores were exempted from rules forbidding dispensaries from near schools, parks or drug treatment centers, any pot shop not already in an area zoned for commercial or industrial uses will have to move - and find a new spot that meets the new guidelines.
Buddy's master, dispensary operator Jeanne Larsson, 44, says it's highly unlikely she will find a new location near their existing perch at H and 30th Street. The area, on the border of Sacramento's Midtown district, is zoned for residences and offices and was recently deemed unfit by the City Council for pot clubs. "It will be virtually impossible for me to stay in Midtown," she says.
But Larsson praises the new city ordinance for preserving the capital's medical pot industry even while she fears "I can't afford the fees and I can't afford to move."
Since it opened in 2009, A Therapeutic Alternative has attracted a clientel of patients mostly 35 and over, including many over 50 with serious health issues. "The 18 to 25 year olds are not bursting down my doors," Larsson says.
Besides its pot strains from Mendo Purps to Green Crack and its marijuana edibles and cannabis-enhanced Kush Town Cola offerings, the dispensary has yoga classes for clients ranging from H.I.V. patients to people treating back injuries from car accidents.
Despite her anxieties, Larson expects to eventually find a new location and win city approval to stay somewhere else in Sacramento.
In dealing with medical marijuana patients, she says hears enough about other people's troubles that she's not so worried about her own.
"I get to go home at night being thankful for my problems," she says. "And I'm thankful for the little bumps on the road."
Pictured: Above - Jeanne Larsson at A Therapeutic Alternative. Below - On back deck with Buddy the therapy dog. Jose Luis Villegasfirstname.lastname@example.org