Yesterday at 4:20 p.m. nearly 60 demonstrators gathered just south of Magnolia on Katella Ave. in front of Green Tree Remedy (GTR)—a dispensary the city of Stanton shut down on April 20th, the international day of weed. Those involved in the demonstration were mostly patients and employees of the dispensary. They held up colorful picket signs that read “Dispensaries Are Not Dealers” and “Cannabis Treats My PTSD.” Cars driving north and south on Katella honked in support of the demonstrators, as they chanted “G-T-R. G-T-R. G-T-R” while they marched toward the Stanton City Hall.
Angelika Perez, an employee at GTR before law enforcement shut it down last Thursday, held a sign that read “Buds Not Bombs.” She marched down Katella with a patient she’s frequently helped over the last year. “This is the first place I’ve worked that I’ve actually liked,” she said. “Keeping [GTR] open is so important to me. We are so close with our patients—we know them by name and they know us.
The bar next door to GTR attracts substantially more chaos throughout the week than the collective ever does, according to Perez. Between the regular fights, drunk driving and noise, GTR runs a far more mellow business, one that appeals to seniors, veterans who suffer from PTSD and those who are terminally ill.
But the city sees GTR (and businesses of the like) as a nuisance. According to a press release drafted by the City of Stanton, law enforcement raided the dispensary because it wanted to send a “clear message of zero tolerance for illegal businesses in the city.”
The press release states that GTR was operating without a business license. According to cannabis lawyer Matthew Pappas, the dispensary has applied and reapplied for a business license but it’s been repeatedly denied.
Back in 2008, Stanton passed regulations banning dispensaries. Last October, however, the ban was repealed due to a referendum, according to Pappas.“They repealed section 9.38 and we referendized 10-60,” says Pappas. “There is no ban of marijuana dispensaries in Stanton because of the referendum and their repeal.”
With over 3,000 collected signatures, Pappas’ law group submitted a completed ballot initiative to the City of Stanton earlier this month. Then on April 20th the dispensary was raided, with 70.8 pounds of cannabis taken and extensive damage done to the facility. “We told the city we were submitting a ballot initiative because we had collected 3,000, which qualified for a special election,” says Pappas. “Then they were raided.”
Demonstrators gathered in front of Stanton City Hall. “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Everything’s Going to be Alright” played over a Bluetooth speaker. If the shut down, or “lock out” as the press release refers to it, hadn’t felt so retaliatory, a demonstrator who wished to remain anonymous said, the demonstration probably wouldn’t have happened. But people swarmed the city hall and as soon as the meeting started at 6:30, the council meeting room was filled to the brim.
David Finer, a Stanton resident, was one of the first to speak during public comments. “Mr. Shawver you know who I am,” he said, addressing the Mayor Pro Tem, “as I went to your house to have a peaceful conversation with you about the dispensary and things like that and your son viciously attacked me.”
The awkward silence in the room would’ve made a pin drop loudly echo. “There are tons of collectives in the city, so why only shut down one?” he said. “And of all the ones you shut down, you guys shut down the biggest one. Why? As I was trying to tell to you earlier David Shawver, GTR does pay taxes—just like every other business—even though you say that they don’t. There’s really no reason to get rid of a dispensary that’s bringing in money to your city. Why wouldn’t you want that revenue going to the different programs that you’ve talked about?”
A young woman named Emily Hemingway spoke to the city council soon after. “I’m just going to be straight forward,” she said. “I know marijuana has a stigma, but the stigma is wrong because cannabis is a medicine…Let’s talk about the veterans that serve our country and come back with problems like post traumatic stress disorder. How can you possibly let someone serve our country and go up to them and say thank you for your service and then try and dictate the ways they try and help themselves? Vets already have worse healthcare than most Americans just because of the way the system is. Why force them into medicines that don’t work or can actually make things worse for them?”
10 people spoke in the public comments section of the meeting. Kris Lewandowski, a veteran who suffers from severe PTSD featured in a recent cover story about non-profit group Weed For Warriors, spoke last night and addressed the fact that GTR offered some of the best prices for medicine in the county.
Another Stanton resident addressed the fact that some need cannabis the way some people need lithium and other medications for schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Making cannabis unavailable is archaic. Although the city council didn’t discuss or address the shutdown of GTR, the voice of the people was not left unheard.