By KAREN VELIE
The only business licensed under new state regulations to deliver medical marijuana in Arroyo Grande, Elite Care, was shut down last week over a disagreement regarding the term premise.
After struggling to find medical marijuana for her mother, who suffered from cancer, Tami Peluso began researching the cannabis industry. In 2012, Peluso and Cynthia Gonzalez left their jobs with Fortune 500 companies to join the cannabis industry.
Unlike many in the industry, Peluso and Gonzalez planned to operate strictly under the letter of the law.
Last summer, the city of Arroyo Grande granted Elite Care a permit to operate as an Arroyo Grande medical marijuana delivery services. In January, the state issued Elite Care the first cannabis delivery permit in California.
Peluso and Gonzalez believed having a premise in the city meant they could have a warehouse in Arroyo Grande. However, city administrators disagreed and said the intent of the ordinance was to require marijuana businesses to have a physical address outside of the city limits. Because of the lengthy process to get approval for medical marijuana businesses, Peluso and Gonzalez do not have the ability to quickly move their business to another community.
While city staffers and Elite Care’s owners worked to comply with the state’s very fluid regulations, it became clear that they did not agree on the meaning of terms in the ordinance.
City Manager James Bergman then directed staff to send a letter to the state asking it to revoke Elite Care’s state permit. Last week, the lady’s informed their 400 clients they were no longer permitted to deliver medical marijuana.
“The representatives of the business in this case study (Elite Care), the only delivery service to have received a city delivery license, have expressed frustration with the process and staff,” a staff report says. “The representatives believe that the city’s ordinance not only permits but requires a non-discretionary approval of a retail non-storefront use on Grand Avenue, while staff believes that the use is prohibited by the AGMC.”
Peluso and Gonzalez have not only left their former jobs and moved to San Luis Obispo County, they have also spent approximately $405,000 opening their medical marijuana business.
“We definitely hope that people will come to the city council meeting and show their support for medical cannabis and the ability to have it delivered to their home,” Peluso said.
On Tuesday, the Arroyo Grande City Council will decide whether or not the city will permit delivery services to have a warehouse in the city.
“I would like them to get a medicinal non-storefront approval,” Mayor Jim Hill said. “Hopefully, reasonable heads will prevail and we can continue to support our residents. They have certainly tried to follow the rules.”