Less than a year after becoming the first licensed medical marijuana provider in California’s San Luis Obispo County, Elite Care has been shut down after a dispute with the city of Arroyo Grande. The Arroyo Grande City Council was the one who initially approved an application for the delivery business to serve patients in the city.
Months of failed back-and-forth between Elite Care and the city of Arroyo Grande over a warehouse have led the business to lose it’s state license, also forcing it to stop deliveries immediately and suddenly.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” co-owner Tami Peluso told San Luis Obispo Tribune on Monday. “We are good, upstanding citizens. This is not an easy thing to get a state permit, and we did because we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s.”
According to Peluso, she and co-owner Cynthia Gonzalez plan to ask for help before the Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018.
The pair founded Elite Care California in 2014 and went on to become the first locally permitted cannabis business in the county in June 2017. Elite Care received a temporary license from the state in December 2017 to operate as a medical “non-storefront retailer” (also known as, a delivery service within the state of California).
Peluso said they were the first business to receive that type of license anywhere in California.
According to Peluso, during the application process, Elite Care was told by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (which issues the California state licenses) that their warehouse, where they would store their goods and supplies, had to be in the same city as their local permit to operate — i.e. Arroyo Grande — but local city representatives then said this would violate the existing marijuana ordinance.
Arroyo Grande City Development Director Teresa McClish said current city ordinance prohibits all commercial cannabis activities other than deliveries, including having a physical premises within city limits. This means Elite Care can’t have a building in Arroyo Grande, she said.
“Elite needs to find a jurisdiction that allows commercial cannabis premises, but it doesn’t have to be in Arroyo Grande,” McClish said. “Our ordinance prohibits it.”
The city advised the bureau in a letter in May that Elite Care’s warehouse would not be consistent with city ordinance; on June 5, the bureau revoked Elite Care’s state license — forcing the business to stop making deliveries indefinitely.
Peluso said she and Gonzalez were upset by the news because they had met with and jumped through hoops for city representatives since January, trying to find a solution, including submitting to police searches of their warehouse and homes.
“We’ve been treated really bad this whole situation,” Peluso also told The Tribune. “We’ve been treated like criminals, and we don’t know why.”
Elite Care losing their permit left roughly 400 local patients without access to medical marijuana deliveries, Peluso said, potentially pushing them toward less safe medicinal alternatives.
“People are telling patients to just call these other people they know — ‘You don’t need Elite Care. This and this person will get it for you,'” she said. “It’s a really scary thing all these people sending others to the black market. Why, when there are legal options out there?”
Peluso and Gonzalez will speak before the City Council Tuesday night, asking the council to send a letter to the state saying they are working toward a solution, to allow Elite Care to continue to operate through at least July 30, when their temporary permit was expected to expire.
If that’s unsuccessful, Peluso said they will likely move their business out of San Luis Obispo County.
“If it’s happening to us, who else is it going to happen to in the county?” she said. “We just happened to be the first ones to get the legal permit in the county, so we are the first ones to have the problem. People need to understand that this is a serious problem.”