The Citizen Collective

A group of Chicoans has grand plans for a medical marijuana-dispensing collective in town

Dylan Tellesen (left) and Theo Badashi are hoping the Chico City Council acts quickly and drafts an ordinance regarding medical-marijuana dispensaries in Chico.

Dylan Tellesen (left) and Theo Badashi are hoping the Chico City Council acts quickly and drafts an ordinance regarding medical-marijuana dispensaries in Chico.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Legalized pot:
Legislators in California are discussing legalizing cannabis, which has been banned in the state since 1913. The state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee was set to discuss the matter—introduced as AB 390—Wednesday (Oct. 28).

Dylan Tellesen is best known around these parts for his artwork, which he shows all over town—and beyond—including in his own gallery, The 46. But Tellesen wears many hats. He also works at Butte College, teaching design and printmaking. And he’s a husband—his wife, Hilary, teaches English at Butte and has been known to take the stage in local theater productions—and a father of two. He’s a PTA member, a soccer coach … the list goes on.

He’s also got a prescription for medical marijuana. It helps his nausea caused by migraines. “I don’t need marijuana very often, but I do know the benefits,” he said.

While it’s hard to believe he has time to take on another project, he recently decided to do just that. He wants to open Chico’s first “medicinal cannabis-dispensing collective.” The terminology is very important, he said. While the term “dispensary” is often used loosely, his model is actually that of a collective that would dispense medicine to its members.

A recent conversation at Café Flo with Tellesen and partner Theo Badashi revealed no bloodshot eyes or “dude, right on!” comments. The two were pure business, in ties even, and presented their plan plainly and with optimism.

“Most people here, they know me as an artist,” Tellesen said, laying out the genesis story for his master plan. “I listened to something Obama was saying, that we needed creative minds to come forward. This is an issue that needs a creative, proactive solution.”

So, he put his creative mind to work. Since June, he’s formed a team of locals, including Badashi, Taylor Kars and lobbyist Max Del Real—along with many others—and they’ve gone about researching the best methods and practices of dispensaries around the state. They’ve also talked with city planners, council members, even Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney about their idea. Everyone’s been receptive, Tellesen said.

The thing is, medical marijuana has been legal in this state for more than a decade, and collectives like the one Tellesen and Badashi are proposing are all over the place—in Los Angeles alone, there are a couple hundred. The group’s biggest hurdle, one that Corning and Red Bluff are currently dealing with as well, is zoning. Where, oh where, should the city allow a collective to be?

The Chico City Council has already met twice on the issue of medical-marijuana grows—specifically growing outdoors, which some contend is a nuisance to neighbors. The Internal Affairs Committee is expected to discuss the issue of zoning for collectives at its Nov. 10 meeting and bring its results to the council’s next meeting.

To hear Tellesen describe it, the Citizen Collective—as it will be called—will be an idyllic place for those with prescriptions for medical marijuana. An inviting waiting room with reading materials, knowledgeable staffers who will not only ensure the legitimacy of members’ scripts but also know which kinds of pot to recommend for a wide range of ailments.

In other words, he wants the place to feel more like a doctor’s office or pharmacy than somebody’s basement, which is currently about as legitimate as you’re going to get buying pot in Chico.

“There’s nothing that’s safe and reputable,” he said. “We need a place that feels more like a pharmacy, with knowledgeable staff. That’s what needs to come to Chico.”

He has dreams of putting excess cash back into the nonprofit collective in the form of yoga classes, access to local alternative-medicine practitioners and vitamins in order to offer a holistic approach to getting people healthy.

Tellesen does acknowledge that there are people who get into the dispensary business for the wrong reasons. “There are people out there who are just trying to make money,” he said. And when he first approached City Council members, they were skeptical. But he’s confident that their attitudes have changed over the months.

Councilman Tom Nickell, who is on the Internal Affairs Committee, declined to comment at this time, as he has yet to form an opinion on the matter. Maloney, on the other hand, had plenty to say about the Citizen Collective and medical marijuana in general.

“I personally am a believer in the use of medical marijuana for legitimate purposes,” Maloney said. “I personally am a two-time cancer survivor. I have not used it myself, but I have known cancer patients who have—and I believe there is some legitimate medicinal benefit.”

That said, as an enforcer of the law, he’s a bit wary of collectives popping up all over town, assuming the City Council provides proper zoning. When it comes to the Citizen Collective in particular, however, he said when he spoke with Tellesen and Del Real, he was impressed with their vision.

“They have not indicated to me anything that would suggest they want to be anything other than legitimate,” Maloney said. “I have to admit I’m rather impressed with the thought they’ve put into their proposal. Dylan and Max have clearly indicated that they would like to establish a model. I can appreciate that.

“It would be our desire that whoever establishes a place like that [collective] would be like the Citizen Collective, people who want to work with law enforcement and the community.”

Tellesen and Badashi couldn’t agree more, having visited numerous dispensaries around the state and seeing both good and bad ones.

“You have to have the right people—smart people—to do it right,” Badashi said.

Some people come on too strong, bringing with them an air of hostility, and others are too greedy, in it for the money. Cities like Santa Rosa have gone about approving collectives in the right way, Tellesen said. They have an ordinance that requires an application and puts a cap on how many are allowed in town. That’s the model Tellesen and Badashi would like to see used in Chico.

“We’re asking our city to be conservative and proactive,” Tellesen said. “We want a model that’s safe.”

In their research, Tellesen and his team found that collectives in other cities have been able not only to offer medicine to their members, but also to be philanthropic, giving back to the community and providing green jobs and a full wellness package to members.

In all, Tellesen said the Citizen Collective model has been well-received “because we’re coming from a good place.”

“We want to create something local that works with the city, law enforcement and the health community,” Tellesen said. “Let’s do this the right way.”