Patients lack on-site cannabis consumption events

Events give patients access to cheaper, stronger medicine

1130 Club’s Will Hennessee wants the city to permit on-site consumption events.

1130 Club’s Will Hennessee wants the city to permit on-site consumption events.

“These local events are about community. 'On-site consumption' simply means the opportunity to medicate.” Amber Terrenova, manager, Two Rivers dispensary

The emergence of medical cannabis changed the economy of marijuana from one dominated by arrests and legal proceedings to one dominated by farming, retailing and wellness. It also created an infrastructure for tax revenues. But when recreational use began in January, medical cannabis got pushed aside. Product selection went down. The potency of edibles went down. Lines got longer and new taxes raised dispensary prices.

Likewise, there is still no place where medical patients can smoke in public, except for large touring shows, like the recent High Times Cannabis Cup. These “on-site consumption” events offer paying attendees discount prices and the ability to medicate in designated areas. Subject to local approval, the events can only be held at fairgrounds, like Cal Expo, or designated agricultural locations. Two new assembly bills, AB 2020 and AB 2641, aim to expand the possible venues for temporary event licenses. Until that happens, where do patients go?

“We've jumped from property to property, trying to congregate for a safe place to do our medicine,” said Will Hennessee, at a recent city council meeting. Hennessee operates the 1130 Club, a free “membership-only cooperative” for medical patients. His Terpy Thursday events operate like a mini farmers market, where a handful of small vendors offer discounts directly to patients. Hennessee said that despite a citywide increase in police activity throughout the 4/20 weekend, “yet they never cited us.”

“These local events are about community,” said Amber Terrenova, a manager at Two Rivers dispensary who also spoke at the council meeting. “On-site consumption simply means the opportunity to medicate.” She contrasted Terpy Thursday and similar medical-only events against the larger cup shows featuring over 200 vendors. “I'm going to pay a $50 fee just to set foot in the door?” Terrenova asked. “That's not going to work for veterans or senior citizens.”

Hennessee shares the concern, saying his members can't afford dispensary prices. He says patients are well behaved, and vendors collect city tax dollars that would otherwise head for the black market. “I want to make this work for everybody,” says Hennessee, who maintains ongoing discussions with city officials. “We have no place else to go.”

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