The last of three medical marijuana dispensaries in South Lake Tahoe could be forced to close if it can't tame the skunky smell of its offerings.
On Wednesday, the city issued a notice to Tahoe Wellness Collective ordering the dispensary reign in its odor problems or face revocation of its operating permit.
The city has continued to receive complaints about the smell of marijuana coming from the nearly 4-year-old collective, said City Manager Nancy Kerry, who said the odor is "out of control."
City officials plan to discuss the issue with Cody Bass, the operator of the collective, Kerry said. She expects Bass will comply with the city's notice and a revocation won't be necessary.
Bass, too, said he plans to take steps to alleviate odor issues at the dispensary.
"We're definitely going to do what we have to do to fix the odor problem," Bass said Thursday. The smell becomes an issue for a few days around several harvests each year, Bass said.
Operating a dispensary in a shopping center and sharing walls with surrounding businesses creates some unique issues for a medical marijuana dispensary, Bass added.
The collective has already made substantial investments in its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system to help alleviate the problem. Bass has also pulled a permit with the city in October to rearrange rooms inside the collective to better contain the smell. He's also offered to provide carbon air filters to nearby businesses, as well as regularly deliver flowers, to help ease the problem.
Bass also faces a potential problem with the city regarding a marijuana-related arrest last month.
He was arrested by the California Highway Patrol Oct. 7 following a traffic stop for speeding on Highway 20 in Colusa County northwest of Sacramento.
During the stop an officer questioned Bass about the smell of marijuana coming from his vehicle and Bass turned over about an ounce-and-a-half of marijuana and a half gram of hashish to the highway patrol, according to a police report.
Prosecutors have charged Bass with transportation or sale of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of concentrated cannabis and driving on a suspended license.
Wednesday's letter to the collective from the city notes the arrest. Kerry said Bass needs to address the matter with the city.
Bass, who is qualified as a patient under California's medical marijuana laws, said the cannabis was for personal use and he considers the arrest illegal. He also said his driver's license was valid at the time of the stop.
Prosecutors initially filed charges related only to driving on a suspended license, but then amended the criminal complaint to include the marijuana charges when he attempted to have the marijuana and hashish returned, Bass said.
If Bass is convicted of the marijuana charges, it could be grounds for the city to revoke Tahoe Wellness Collective's operating permit.
City code allows the city manager to immediately revoke a dispensary permit if an employee is convicted of a felony or convicted of a misdemeanor "substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a dispensary."