East Palo Alto’s Chief of Police, Ron Davis, informed East Palo Alto's top officials that the Peninsula Care Giver Collective and Wellness (PCGC) organization was illegally operating a medical marijuana dispensary within the city.
Davis told the city's council members and its chief staff in their May 3 city council meeting that he had received a number of complaints from residents that PCGC was distributing and selling marijuana without a conditional use permit.
PCGC had applied to the city for a permit to distribute and sell marijuana at its East Palo Alto facility at 1972 Pulgas Avenue. The group’s request was denied by the city’s planning department due to city zoning ordinances. The group appealed the decision to the city council, which has been holding special meetings to study the group’s request.
Davis told the council during his report that the collective is illegally distributing and selling marijuana in the city anyway, while awaiting the council’s decision, without official permission and in blatant disregard for the community.
He said that members of the East Palo Alto Police Department went to PCGC and instructed the owners of the collective to “cease and desist” the distribution and sale of marijuana within the city until the council had made its decision.
Davis stated that the owners of the facility were defiant and they said that they would continue to sell marijuana in East Palo Alto, regardless of the council’s decision.
Since making his report to the council, Davis wrote a “Letter to the Community” on May 5, that was emailed to select community members. Davis’ letter repeated the statements that he made during the council meeting and gave an update on the situation.
He ended his letter by saying, “On May 4, 2011, PCGC was served with a formal order to cease and desist their operations no later than Friday, May 6, 2011. The city will pursue all appropriate civil remedies and sanctions if PCGC fails to comply with this order. Additionally, the Police Department has started a criminal investigation and will seek criminal charges where appropriate.”
Read the full text of Chief Davis’ "Letter to the Community" here.
When asked to respond to the charges that Davis made, Darren Powell, one of the founders of PCGC, said in a phone interview that the collective was not doing anything illegal. He said that it was not selling marijuana, because he and his partner, Willie Beasley, knew under state law that selling marijuana was illegal. So, under the provisions of Prop 215, they were providing their clients safe access to marijuana in an area that was already zoned for medical use.
Powell stated that the marijuana was being offered at a suggested donation. “So, our members donate to pay for the various expenses to run the collective,” he said.
In terms of being a threat to the community, Powell said that East Palo Alto's Parole Re-entry Program is more of a threat to the community, because, under the program, the police department allows known criminals – rapists, gang members, murderers and drug dealers – to live and work in the community and pays them.
“This turns us into a penal colony,” Powell said. “And they’re worried about us being a threat to the community. This is a joke.”
As for the demand from the police to “cease and desist,” Powell said that the police presented them with a letter at the door of their facility. “This is borderline harassment,” he said.
Powell said that the PCGC invited the city manager, the city attorney and the city’s council members to tour his organization and some of them promised that they would. Then they stopped talking to him and his partner. “How are we going to get due process if they stop talking to us? The community needs to stand behind us,” he said.
Upon hearing Davis’ report at the council’s May 3 meeting, East Palo Alto’s Mayor, Carlos Romero, replied that the council would discuss PCGC’s request for a conditional use permit at its scheduled meeting on June 7 and would, then, take action on the matter.
To contact the author of this article, email Henrietta J. Burroughs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a video excerpt of an interview with Darren Powell and Willie Beasley from a November 2010 Talking with Henrietta show. Click here to see the video excerpt.