Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

January 25, 2011
Orangevale pot club goes from anonymity to civic involvement

magnolianew 002.jpgIn early 2010, former building contractor David Spradlin and about a dozen fellow medical marijuana patients opened the Magnolia Wellness Center in Orangevale. They sought to be unobtrusive as possible, initially operating only a private dispensary with a handful of "gardeners" sharing their product amongst themselves.

These days, the Wellness Center underscores the rapid evolution of the medical marijuana market in Sacramento County. Last spring, county officials announced there was no county ordinance to permit an influx of marijuana stores. Since that time, the county's dispensary population has easily more than doubled. And places such as the Magnolia Wellness Center are thriving - and a part of the community fabric, whether they are wanted or not.

Since the dispensary went public and began signing up people with physicians recommendations for marijuana, Magnolia Wellness grew to 7,500 registered members. It joined the chamber of commerce in Orangevale, helped sponsor local blood drives and collected donations for a regional food bank.

"We really kept our head down for the first year to be mindful of the local community," Spradlin said. "We wanted to make sure we established a track record before we put the flag up."

Now impatient county officials, who long ago ordered Magnolia Wellness to close and denied its appeal to stay in operation, wants the Orangevale store and dozens of other dispensaries to go away.

Spradlin suggests the dispensary has proven itself as a legitimate operation and argues the demands of the local medical marijuana market makes the case for a new county ordinance, similar to that of the City of Sacramento, to permit the pot stores to stay open.

"I think the fact that we've accumulated over 7,500 patient members discredits the county's stance and says there is an absolute need for access" to medical marijuana, Spradlin said of his suburban establishment. "People don't want to drive all the way to Sacramento."

In Orangevale, there are now four marijuana dispensaries, including Magnolia Wellness, Gaia's Gift, Enso Wellness and Nature's Own Healing Center. All are on near Greenback Lane, Orangevale's central boulevard.

Their presence is irksome to the local county supervisor, Roberta MacGlashan.

"I've driven by them," she said. "It's hard not to see them. This is a conservative community. People ask how can you allow this to happen?"

The issue, covered in Sunday's Sacramento Bee, underscores the dilemma for county officials who have long insisted current zoning laws - which don't permit pot stores - are sufficient to keep them out.

For now, the continuing influx seems to be rendering a different verdict. It appears to leave the county - and a newly formed committee studying the issue - grappling over whether to accept them or find a more effective means to keep them out.

In the video below, Ryan Hudson, manager of The Reserve dispensary on bustling Fulton Avenue Sacramento, argues for the services his establishment provides.

Meanwhile, a mortgage loan processor from Citrus Heights who stopped in recently at the Magnolia Wellness Center, complained that she didn't want the local local club driven out. The woman, who didn't want her name used, said she regularly uses a marijuana vaporizer to treat her asthma and stress. She turned to Spradlin, adding: "He's close by when I'm stressed out."

Pictured above - David Spradlin at the Magnolia Wellness dispensary. Peter Hecht/phecht@sacbee.com. Video below - Ryan Hudson at The Reserve.

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