The Press

Huntington Park picks three potential pot dispensers

HUNTINGTON PARK — The City Council May 17 named three groups to cultivate marijuana and operate a medical marijuana dispensary, but the selections, based on a blind number call, are tentative.

City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said under the dispensary ordinance approved several months ago, those named must negotiate on a business plan, fees to the city and an appropriate location.

A location was not part of the information requested of applicants, Mayor Graciela Ortiz said.

None of the three groups reported any experience in operating a dispensary, although a couple said they were medical marijuana users.

Councilman Valentin Amezquita, who spoke against the medical marijuana plan, did not make any nominations and voted against all of the finalists.

“I am against medical marijuana,” Amezquita said. “We should not bring this into our city. This is a family community with a lot of kids.”

The three selected groups are:

• National Compassionate Center, headed by Michael Schendence, represented by an attorney who would not give his name, supported by Ortiz, Vice Mayor Marilyn Sanabria and Council members Karina Macias and Jhonny Pineda.

• United Health and Care System, to be operated by MJIC Inc., represented by attorney Larry Horowitz, supported by Ortiz, Sanabria and Macias.

• And Goodness4Life, headed by Robert Hodge, represented by attorney Michael Margolis, supported by Ortiz, Sanabria, Macias and Pineda.

City Manager Edgar Cisneros explained that 31 applications were received by the May 4 deadline.

In a move to show transparency and to prevent a council member from selecting someone they personally knew, city staff compiled a list with the applicant names blotted out and represented by a number so officials presumably would not know who they were voting for.

Under the procedure outlined by Cisneros, each council member was allowed to pick five numbers. If an applicant’s  number was chosen twice or more he or she became finalists and were interviewed by the council.

A finalist interviewed but rejected was Jonathan Skiar, who said he was from the San Francisco area, has a degree in psychology and has operated a medical marijuana dispensary in San Jose  for three years.

His application was supported by Pinada and Sanabria but opposed by Macias and Ortiz along with Amezquita.

Resident Rodolfo Cruz spoke against the marijuana plan earlier in the evening, saying that there already were illegal drug sales in the city and that the marijuana dispensaries would attract more

Resident Betty Retama had similar concerns, saying “this city is inviting crime of every type. They will not just be selling marijuana, but heroin and crack.”

However, Sonia Luz Chavez, owner of Casa Luz Restgaurant and a member of the Huntington Park Chamber of Commerce, called for dispensary owners to give back to the city and work with the chamber.

She noted, one applicant, Gene Gonzalez of Los Angeles, already has.

Gonzalez, who said he has operated a legal dispensary in Los Angeles since 2007, was not interviewed as his number was not called.