Field of greens
Local cultivator at forefront of next medical-cannabis battle
Sven Metour is writing medical cannabis’ unwritten future.
The veteran grower produces a yearly crop of legal, high-quality medicine for dispensaries in Bakersfield and Southern California out of his two-story Citrus Heights home, tucked away on a cozy suburban street in an idyllic middle-class neighborhood.
But medical cannabis is still an industry rooted in an outlaw culture that has only fitfully won political and legal acceptance. So, Metour’s effort to open a nonprofit cultivation warehouse in El Dorado County, with his mentor, is quite possibly the next potential salvo in the effort to legitimize the movement.
“It’s a viable industry, the only growing industry in California,” Metour said of medical cannabis. “There’s so much money sitting on the sidelines. It would be like missing out on Apple computers or missing out on Microsoft when they got started.”
But the politics remain as confounding as ever, so Metour must walk a tortuous path still being paved by local dispensaries as the template for what he might encounter while trying to open Capital City Cultivators Association, a cannabis-growing nonprofit.
Friends and associates say he’s got his work cut out for him.
“It’s a minefield,” said Mark J. Reichel, an attorney who represents Metour as well as other people in the medical-pot industry. “[The law] is completely hodgepodge. You have to have a lot of guts to go into the business.”
For instance, state and federal laws can result in huge fines and hard prison time. And, Reichel says, ordinances and enforcement vary from county to county. “It makes the Ivory Coast situation look organized,” he quipped.
Metour and his partner initially wanted to lease a space in Sacramento County, but commercial space was easier to find in El Dorado County. Still, his budding enterprise may find El Dorado’s political climate not so hospitable.
Cultivation of medical cannabis is not permitted in the county, according to El Dorado spokesman Mike Applegarth. And Sheriff John D’Agostini says he will look carefully at any collective or cooperative hoping to operate in his jurisdiction.
“We’re not there to beat the spirit of Proposition 215,” the sheriff said of the voter-ratified Compassionate Use Act of 1996. But he also says he intends to guard against any for-profit activities.
“A lot of growers abuse what the people voted for,” he argues.
Metour believes his Capital City Cultivators Association will be a source for chemical-free, mold-free Mendocino Purps, and basically reduce the patchwork approach dispensaries take toward stockpiling their product by establishing a reliable growers’ nonprofit.
And not just for patients in pot-saturated Sacramento, where dispensaries already pay relatively low fees. “When I did my last outdoor grow,” Metour recalled, “I went to a dozen different dispensaries in Sacramento, but the market was so saturated.” So he provides medicine to Southern California, too.
And while Metour may be taking his startup venture out of town up Highway 50, he still has an influential local cheerleader.
Jeanne Larsson, a dispensary owner and Sacramento Alliance of Collectives member who last year worked closely with Sacramento city officials on its ordinance, has been acting as Metour’s unofficial tutor in the contentious arena of pot politics, advising him to create a business plan and prepare for the unexpected.
“Cultivation is the next big issue in California,” Larsson predicted. She reminds that over the years, people have gone to jail and been “financially decimated.”
“I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it’s true. In order to give the rest of us rights, there’s always got to be that guy that’s the example,” she said.
The question is whether Metour will be an example or the exception.