Combat vet with PTSD soldiers on against county’s cannabis war
With more than $5,000 in code violations and the threatened closure of two adacent businesses, Johnny Zonneveld, a U.S. Marines combat veteran who uses medical cannabis to battle post-traumatic stress disorder, conceded a skirmish in Sacramento County’s war on medical cannabis dispensaries and closed Sunnyfields Collective on Thursday.
Sunnyfields joins One Solution, City of Trees, California Holistic Care, Citizen Collective, The Reserve, PACC Wellness, All Natural Solutions and Fort Kush among the confirmed casualties in the $1 million war that Sacramento County is borrowing to wage on medical cannabis dispensaries.
The story of former infantryman and dispensary owner Johnny Zonneveld sounds like a 21st century Catch-22:
Zonneveld said he was fined, on zoning violations, for operating a type of business that Sacramento County does not recognize and will not permit.
“In violation of operating a medical cannabis dispensary,” Zonneveld said. “Non-permitted use, basically. Nusiance.”
Then Zonneveld said he was fined, on building code violations, when he constructed a wall inside the dispensary without a permit from the county, which would not issue such a permit to a business that does not already have a permit to operate as a legally recognized business.
Zonneveld recalled his trip to Sacramento County’s building department.
“I wanted a permit to construct a wall,” he said.
“The guy from the county said, ‘What’s your use?’
“I told him straight-up what I was doing.
“He said, ‘You’re never gonna get that approved.’
“I said, OK, I’ll take the fines for the walls.”
After fines topped $5,000, Zonneveld retreated.
“I couldn’t pay my employees,” he said. “We just couldn’t stay open.”
Zonneveld threw his 8-month-old medical cannabis dispensary on a grenade. The survivors include a tattoo parlor and a liquor store in a ramshackle 1950s-era strip mall on Fair Oaks Boulevard.
“It’s partially why I decided not to mess with the county,” Zonneveld said. “There are two other businessiness there. Basically, if you have a building code violation in a building, they can close that building down because it’s considered a safety hazard. The landlord wasn’t willing to fix the different things that are wrong with the building, and the county wouldn’t approve the permit for me to get things up to code.”
Zonneveld, who served in the Marines infantry and performed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2000 to 2004, is preparing a new front:
Sunnyfields Collective, Zonneveld said, will continue to dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients — but only by appointment and only to existing patients or to new patients who are referred by existing patients.
“We have a private location that members can come to,” Zonneveld said. “But we’re not advertising we have a storefront. We’re not advertising as a delivery service either.”
Zonneveld said he’s not deterred by the county.
“I don’t really care what the hell the county thinks of it now,” Zonneveld said. “I’m not doing this for the county. I’m doing this for the people who need cannabis.”
Zonneveld said Sunnyfields’ patients include more than 200 military veterans, most of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder related to their service.
“Basically," Zonneveld said, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is "telling me what I’m doing is wrong or illegal yet Prop. 215 passed in 1996 and 15 years after the law actually passed they still don’t have an ordinance written. That means they haven’t done their job. If anybody should get any kind of fine for doing something illegal, it should be the county Board of Supervisors for not doing their jobs, for not doing what the voters actually voted for.”
Disclosure: Ed Murrieta is publisher of PotAppetit.com.