By Sharon Letts
On the heels of continued raids by the DEA of four legally run dispensaries in Los Angeles, West L.A. dispensary owner Yamileth Bolanos is pretty much at the end of her Hemp rope, so to speak.
Bolanos, who is founder and owner of Pure Life Wellness, has been at the forefront of cannabis activism in the city of Los Angeles, where recently dispensaries were threatened with closure by city officials.
With the creation of GLACA, the "Greater Los Angeles Cannabis Alliance," Bolanos, with other longtime dispensary owners, banded together to create their own entity in order to deal with the powers that be, driven by the philosophy that "strength in numbers" matter.
"We founded GLACA in 2006 to help create ordinances on how dispensaries should behave, because the city would not instate ordinances until 2010," Bolanos said. "Those who were operating safely and were respectful of their neighbors needed a way to differentiate from profiteers who did not care about patient safety, or were otherwise problematic in their behavior."
|West LA "Pure Life Wellness" dispensary owner Yamileth Bolanos with a patient.|
Visits to a few Los Angeles area dispensaries had this savvy dispensary patient concerned, as the environment in some definitely had a little too laid back feeling, in my humble opinion. Rumor has it an Armenian faction - a strong demographic in the Los Angeles area - has a corner of the city's cannabis market.
But in my mind, any product that has the capacity to make a good deal of income would attract a business-minded, entrepreneurial faction - or those who may want to capitalize on a good thing. This is America and there is nothing wrong with that - it's what we were founded on. It's also a pretty good argument for legalization, but that's another essay.
The challenge with the gangsta mentality is, rules aren't followed, and in this industry rules must be followed, because that one bad apple can spill decades of progress upon the proverbial floor.
I once visited a now-closed dispensary in San Francisco with a friend who did not have a 215 card. The dispensary not only let him in, they allowed him to peruse the selection. They then allowed him to sit in the lounge and smoke. Yup, that's right. I was appalled, did not say who I was, and was not surprised to read that the highly respected, longtime dispensary was raided and closed some months later.
|Pure Life Wellness dispensary owner Yamileth Bolanos gives a classic chuckle, explaining the benefits of cannabis infused ice cream.|
Doing the Right Thing
This is why GLACA was created, and why invitations to join come with guidelines - as all dispensaries and collectives partaking must have been operating for a minimum of five years, operating in compliance with local and State laws.
The highly organized trade organization lobbied the LA City Council extensively for ordinances - creating the first batch themselves, only to be ignored by the council in the final round.
"We went to both Sacramento and the Federal Congress to lobby on behalf of our members," Bolanos said. "Perhaps the best example of the positive impact we've had is that all of the City's three ordinances allowed GLACA facilities to remain open, while ordering those with lesser experience to close."
DEA Smash & Grab
That is until January 9, when Federal Agents ignored not only state-sanctioned compassionate care laws, but completely disregarded any affiliation with GLACA -- raiding two longtime members, LA Wonderland on West Pico Boulevard, Iron Works in Venice Beach, and non-affilliated DTPG on South Hill Street near downtown, as reported by Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access.
"These raids must stop!" Bolanos pleaded in an e-mail just hours after the "smash and grab" raids were finished. As is the mode of operendi, security cameras were smashed, cash and all forms of medicine was taken - with no receipt left behind, as is the procedure. It's important to note that they left after padlocking the doors, with no arrests made - another safe place for patients off the list.
|Pure Life Wellness' most powerful edible "Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans" had this writer's sciatica spasms under control -- more than an Urgent Care doctor was recently able to guarantee|
Begging for Safe Access
A two-time cancer survivor and liver transplant patient, Bolanos knows firsthand the importance of safe access in obtaining cannabis as medicine. Born in Costa Rica, where contaminated water creates a high incidence of liver problems, Bolanos said she was one of the unlucky ones.
"The medication you take every day to force the body to accept the transplant is quite toxic," Bolanos explained. "Additionally, you have no immune system and no way to fight off infection, which is its own set of problems. One of which is a skin cancer, which I have been treating with critical concentrate, and am happy to report has drawn 'inconclusive results' from the last 'bite' or biopsy!"
Over the Counter, Not Curbside
The misconception that stoners only frequent legally run dispensaries has been a thorn in this writer's side for a sometime now.
NORML's (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) own Secretary Allen F. St. Pierre was recently quoted calling dispensary owners "Moonshiners." Wondering if St. Pierre has ever really met a dispensary owner who began as a patient. Peruse this series and you'll find many, Mr. St. Pierre, respectfully.
|Pure Life carries the finest bud and a good selection of edibles and other forms of medicine|
After my last series of essays on curing my own cancer with cannabis here in Toke of the Town, I received myriad correspondence from needful patients - not stoners - from literally all over the world, asking for the cure -- including Romney-voting Republicans asking how they can "legally" obtain this medicine.
I can't stress enough the importance of legality when it comes to healing with cannabis.
Conservative patients will not seek medicine on the Black Market - they would not know the first thing about it. They will obtain a card to do so, legally. They will go to a dispensary and purchase tincture, oils, salves - even leaf co-operatives, and anything else that will help their pain. They won't grow it themselves - most Americans don't know the first thing about growing their own food, let alone cannabis.
When I flew into Los Angeles from Humboldt I couldn't bring my medicine with me, albeit tinctures and salves. It was of the utmost importance to me to locate a good dispensary and purchase medicine that I could be assured was safe. For me, that means organic bud, tincture and edibles - preferably made from cannabis grown outdoors in the sun.
Getting stoned is secondary - still enjoyed, but when I'm not feeling well, I need the meds... period.
I'm sorry it took illness for Bolanos to get involved in providing good medicine to Angelenos, but I'm eternally grateful for her work and the creation of GLACA. It shows that cannabis patients can take care of its own, get organized, and support each other in these dark DEA days.
Pure Life Wellness is located at 1649 S. La Cienega Blvd., West Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 246-9345, or visit its Web site, www.purelifealternative.com. For more information about GLACA, visit its Web site, www.glaca.net. For information on safe access visit, Americans for Safe Access on its Web site, www.safeaccessnow.org.