Going Green With one act, Greenfield becomes the most progressive city in the county.


Three years ago, a remarkable thing happened to Karen Mankins, a registered nurse who manages an assisted living community (a private pay one, meaning, it’s pricey) in Carmel. She had an elderly patient who was jacked up on all kinds of prescriptions: Norco for back fractures, anti-nausea to knock down the effects of the Norco, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills. Taken together, they barely knocked down the pain, but they wiped out her appetite and turned her into a zombie.

The woman’s family told the administration, “We want our mother on medical marijuana.”

“I went back to my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, do they smoke it? Do I roll a joint for her?’ I had no clue,” Mankins said.

She found a dispensary in Santa Cruz and got a recommendation for a high-cannabidiol tincture. The first night, she gave her patient a half dose of the tincture and held back on the pain meds.

“I called her a half hour later and she said, ‘I’m hungry.’ Bingo. I asked her, ‘How’s your pain?’ and she said, ‘What pain?’” Mankins recounted. “She said, ‘I can tell you the pain is still there, but the edge is off.”

Of the residents in the 24-unit assisted living facility, 14 now use medical cannabis. “These are all retired doctors, lawyers, CEOs of huge companies, and they do their homework,” she says.

Mankins told the story to the Greenfield City Council, where a remarkable thing happened Tuesday night. (And I mean remarkable beyond the fact that electeds behave really civilly in Greenfield, and beyond the fact they were having this discussion in the first place and agreeing on a course of action.)

Marijuana is already legalized for medical use in California. Full legalization is probably coming in 2016, though nobody knows what form that legalization will take. Greenfield needs to do something about it, and fast, to take advantage of possibilities to bring in revenue and new business. Those possibilities include developing an ordinance allowing dispensaries to open in Greenfield, locating manufacturing businesses like Altai Brands (see story, p. 22) there, and maybe even allowing marijuana cultivation and harvesting.

Aaron Johnson, who heads the cannabusiness practice at Salinas-based law firm L+G, gave the presentation on what ordinances for the city could look like. He was there at the request of Brad Sullivan, a partner at L+G who’s also the contract city attorney for Greenfield.

Speakers lined up to talk about how medical cannabis had impacted their lives. One soldier said he’s about to leave Army service. He’s seen terrible things, he told the council, and the VA has him on six prescriptions for depression and anxiety. He believes cannabis can save him.

“It sounds like the time has come for something like this in Greenfield,” City Councilman Raul Rodriguez said. “But let’s move quickly. We need to move on the whole educating part.”

And from Councilman Lance Walker: “We do need to move quickly and hit it hard. I think we need to educate the city.”

And Councilwoman Leah Santibanez, who talked about having to drag her cancer-patient father to Santa Cruz to find a dispensary: “It would be nice to have it local for people to take care of people.”

Ditto from Councilwoman Avelina Torres and Mayor John Huerta.

City Manager Susan Stanton has marching orders to start educating the public, presumably with town hall-style meetings, and to start working on various options for an ordinance.

The moving-quickly part comes because, if Greenfield plans to tax this nascent industry, they need to put it before the voters. That means getting approvals and ordinances in place by June, with a special election for later this year.

Another speaker, Tim Murphy, owns land in Greenfield along with his brother, who worked for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. He says smart action now will set up Greenfield for the future.

“Greenfield has one of the best appellations for growing cannabis in California. There’s no competing with what Greenfield has to offer in terms of ag potential,” Murphy said. “That’s what’s exciting. That’s what Greenfield should capitalize on.”