Q&A With Laura Hamburg

by AVA News Service, August 3, 2011

AVA: Won't it be a target for thieves?

Ms. Hamburg: We will have a minimal amount of medical cannabis on site. Mendocino Generations healing center will have a full security system installed by a local security company, which will include alarms, video cameras (which can also be monitored remotely) and sensor lights. At night when the healing center is closed, we will pull down, secure and bolt the existing garage door, as an extra level of security.

AVA: Many of us have this negative picture of dispensaries as dark, foreboding places, with lurks and murks loitering around the front, people smoking marijuana as thieves circle like buzzards.

Ms. Hamburg: Scratch that. Here’s our model. Mendocino Generations in Boonville will feel so safe and welcoming that a mother pushing her baby in a stroller would want to come in and browse the selection of locally-crafted herbs, locally-produced specialty products and see what a neighborhood dispensary offering medical cannabis is all about. Mendocino Generations will be a sunny boutique specializing in a variety of holistic healing modalities, specializing in, but not limited to medical cannabis. Our partner, Chiah Rodriques, a certified local herbalist and midwife assistant, will be working with local herbalists to offer our members the highest quality medical cannabis and non-cannabis herbal medicines. Our plan is to offer healing consultations, massage, herbal workshops, herbal wildcrafting and more. Special in-store discounts will be offered to active and retired military personnel, Medi-Cal patients and Mendocino County locals. Our membership rules will be strictly enforced and prohibit loitering, the ingestion of cannabis anywhere within or on the grounds of Mendocino Generations. All members must have a valid and current physicians recommendations in order to receive any amount of packaged and sealed medical cannabis. The following comes directly from our Mendocino Generations Membership Rules:“All patient/members shall be respectful and cognizant, of Mendocino Generations members, employees and our neighbors at all times. No abusive or offensive conduct, loitering, loud noise, or littering is allowed in the facility or within the vicinity. None of these activities, as well as ingestion of medical cannabis, is allowed inside, nor in the vicinity of the Mendocino Generations. Violation of any of these rules shall be grounds for expulsion from Mendocino Generations and cancellation of membership.” Right now we have 12 medical marijuana dispensaries in Mendocino County. Boonville is one of the few unincorporated towns without one. We know that other people, including non-residents of Mendocino County, have been inquiring about and wanting to open a Boonville dispensary. We know it is going to happen, as it is a lawful business. If it’s going to happen -- and it is -- we want it to be us. As second-generation Mendocino County residents who are vested in the community and raising our young children here, we are committed to being the most conscientious, law-abiding, respectful neighbors and business owners. It is our foundational intention. We have informed Deputy Squires and Sheriff Allman about opening the center. We plan to have an excellent working relationship with our local law enforcement. None of our other County dispensaries have reported any problems of theft or other crimes at their storefront dispensaries, including the two in downtown Mendocino, according to local law enforcement.

AVA: Some next door neighbors are unhappy about the idea, particularly the Valley Bible Fellowship.

Ms. Hamburg: We respect and value the ministry work at the Valley Bible Fellowship and plan on being impeccable neighbors. We have spoken with Mr. Peterman and Mr. Kooyers and will work with them to address their concerns. Also, we want to invite the community to a neighborhood open house on Tuesday, September 6 (before Mendocino Generations opens, which will be sometime in the early fall) at 6 pm. We want to show our neighbors the 500 square-feet dispensary, answer questions and give the community a feel for what to expect. Please feel free to call: Laura Hamburg 489-2792.

AVA: Why not treat it like a bar and have notifications and public comment?

Ms. Hamburg: This is not currently how dispensaries are regulated. As Sgt. Randy Johnson has said: ‘It’s not like a bar, with people hanging out in front on the sidewalk.’ People are not allowed to consume cannabis on the premises -- unlike a bar where patrons get intoxicated on the premises and drive away. We know that when the word spreads of the idea of someone opening a dispensary it tends to trigger fear and concern – mostly because folks understandably don’t know what to expect. But what we have seen locally, is that once our Mendocino County dispensaries have opened their doors, some of the same people who were originally opposed to the idea, have embraced dispensary storefronts as an integral and welcome part of their neighborhood. We think it’s because as local dispensary owners, we live here too. This is our home. Our community and we care and are committed to bending over backwards to be law-abiding business owners and respectful neighbors.

AVA: Will the employees/owners have to undergo background checks through the Sheriff like bar owners do?

Ms. Hamburg: This is not currently how dispensaries are regulated. We will comply, to the letter of the law, with all regulations and rules.

AVA: Won't parking be a problem, at least at certain times of the day or week?

Ms. Hamburg: Yes. These parking spots are precious. It will take our willingness to defer to our neighbors to make it work for them. Lauren of Lauren’s Café and the Bible Fellowship have a long history of working well together to make it work for their respective places. We will honor and respect their arrangements and will prohibit our members from parking in their spots.

AVA: What kind of modifications will be required to the building?

Ms. Hamburg: Ed and Tamara [Carsey] have beautifully renovated the ambulance barn. You’ll be surprised when you see how gorgeous it is already, with new dark wood floors, fresh coats of sunny, yellow paint, new ceiling fans, new windows, a little office and storage space. We want Mendocino Generations to look and feel like what it is: A Main Street American, holistic, healing center boutique -- featuring the best, locally grown medicine on the planet. We’re going to put a sweet awning on the front, and have a local finish carpenter build a glass window and entry way in front of the garage door. We will create a lovely garden patio within the fenced-in area, put up our sign (currently asking local artists to help us design a logo and welcome any ideas) and sprinkle the outside front with wine barrels filled with colorful flowers.

AVA: Isn't there a problem with your father being on the ad-hoc committee drafting dispensary rules as you open one up in Boonville?

Ms. Hamburg: The local dispensary and medical marijuana collective community – including current dispensary owners -- have been invited to participate in the crafting and drafting of the upcoming dispensary ordinance. It will be a transparent, inclusive process that involves as many stakeholders as wish to contribute to the process. My partners (Jamie Beatty and Chiah Rodriques of Redwood Valley) and I, and our dispensary have no financial ties with my father whatsoever. Nor is my father involved, or will he be in the future, in the planning, organizing or operation of Mendocino Generations. He will not benefit in any way from Mendocino Generations. I feel he has great integrity and is fully capable of acting with impartiality. I can think of no one better qualified and experienced than my father and Supervisor McCowen to begin the process of forming the committee to draft a county dispensary ordinance. My father has three decades of understanding the political, cultural and economic landscape when it comes to local medical marijuana issues. We’re lucky to have him on board. As a business owner, I will also be bringing my own experience as an advocate for local MMJ farmers, my personal family experience with cancer and medical marijuana and my years of contributing to my community. Thank you Bruce and Mark for this opportunity to respond to your excellent questions. We invite AVA readers, the community and our neighbors to come say hello, ask questions and see our dispensary on Tuesday, September 6 at 6 pm. Until then, if anyone would like to chat with me, please call: 489-2792. — Laura Hamburg, Chiah Rodriques, Jamie Beatty

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