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Local News

Medical-Marijuana Facility Opens on Milpas Street

The Green Well was one of two applications approved before Santa Barbara adopted a moratorium

Santa Barbara’s second permitted medical-marijuana dispensing location, The Green Well on Milpas Street, officially opened Monday.

In the midst of the city’s battle over medical marijuana, Nat Reinke and James Lee had one of two applications that were approved before a moratorium was adopted late last year. The ordinance is being revised, and it’s unclear how the new ordinance will affect their venture.

Reinke and Lee have been very visible throughout their application process, with attendance at public meetings and support of other applicants.

Now that they’re open for business, the real work begins, they said.

“We have to execute the plan we handed to the city,” Lee said.

Reinke, a former grower for Bay Area dispensaries, and Lee, a “recovering financial analyst,” began the application process in February.

They made it through the process fairly quickly because of their clean application — many applicants got theirs kicked back to them for revisions, they said.

The Green Well got its name because the Santa Barbara Patients’ Collective Health Cooperative was too much of a mouthful. Also, people can use it in public and it won’t set off a lot of flags, they said.

The current ordinance emphasizes security and operational requirements, and The Green Well, 500 N. Milpas St., operates under the mandated hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours, seven days a week.

Its security installations were done by a company that handles security for banks, and include cameras, motion detectors, guards and alarms.

Although the city can’t impose an age limit above 18, The Green Well doesn’t serve anyone younger than age 20. Underage — and illegal — access to medical marijuana has been one of the biggest issues in the city’s ongoing debate.

The building’s layout also contributes to security. Nonpatients can enter only the front lobby, and only registered, verified patients can enter the back hallway, offices and dispensing room.

The dispensing room is one way — the hallway’s door is locked after it’s closed — and the system was in place before it opened for business. While touring the room, this reporter got locked in with Reinke and Lee, who had to call employees in the front offices to let us back into the hallway.

Patients leave through a double-door exit. The door to the outside won’t open until the first door closes all the way, in an attempt to stop pilfering of product.

Many applications have been criticized by neighbors because of the fear that medical-marijuana dispensing organizations attract crime. They aren’t the only ones. Reinke and Lee have taken precautions to protect themselves as well as their customers.

The facility includes a double-door exit for added security. The door to the outside won’t open until the first door closes all the way.
The facility includes a double-door exit for added security. The door to the outside won’t open until the first door closes all the way. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

In August 2007, police reported an armed robbery at a Mission Street dispensary, and in April last year, a partial owner of the Sacred Mountain dispensary was reportedly the victim of a burglary, threatened and forced to sign over his share of the business, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

The ordinance doesn’t allow any signage, but “those who would rob us know where we are,” Reinke said.

“We just hope they’d pick an easier one,” Lee said. At theirs, the would-be thief would be caught on camera and have a very short amount of time before police showed up.

The Green Well’s inventory and money are held in safes behind coded doorways. The full selection of inventory includes many nonsmoking options, which Reinke and Lee said they plan to encourage further by offering vaporization classes.

Patients can smoke, vaporize or bake their product — buds, concentrated forms and edibles are all offered, and are priced for cost recovery at $40 to $60 per unit plus tax.

All inventory is provided by patient growers, which is necessary to be a legal collective, and funds reimburse their efforts and go toward charitable contributions. Lee, who will be handling the financial plan and long-term issues, hopes to create an advisory council and front office “wishing well” so the community can help them get ideas for contributions.

The Green Well’s patients grow both inside and outside. Inside grows are more expensive because of the necessary power, but outside grows are often helpless against weather.

The staff of 21 was whittled from about 200 applicants, and consists of all local people with nonprofit or volunteer experience.

Reinke, who will manage day-to-day operations, said the most expensive hurdle was making the facility compliant with the American Disabilities Act, which included widening and sloping the hallway and changing out the storefront.

Reinke and Lee also plan to offer patient services such as massage, acupuncture, nutrition and classes. Their team of independent specialists will hold the classes — which could include cultivation and using a vaporizer — elsewhere, as there’s no space at their operation.

Patients have been registering for the collective for some time now, but since the dispensing part of it is operational, nonpatients can no longer enter the facility.

Reinke and Lee had hoped city officials would accept their invitation to tour the facility, but may now need to get permission from the planning division to allow them in.

The Green Well is operating under a soft opening for the next few weeks and will have a grand opening in late January or early February.

To be permitted, a medical-marijuana dispensing organization has to have a police-approved security plan, fulfill operational requirements and be approved by the Planning Department’s staff hearing officer.

There are now two such operating, permitted storefronts open in the city.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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