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Pot classes in session

Newport couple hope their new ‘medical marijuana information center’ will help dissolve stigmas associated with the illegal drug.

March 19, 2010|By Brianna Bailey and Mona Shadia

Chadd and Alysha McKeen don’t care that passersby can see the six 3-foot-tall marijuana plants growing inside their new Costa Mesa storefront.

“I want to tell people to stop being afraid of it,” said Chadd McKeen, co-founder of Otherside Farms. “We want to bring it out into the open.”

The McKeens also put in new tile and ripped the bars off the windows at the center, which sits between a dog-grooming business and a therapeutic spa. It’s all part of an effort to make the place appear open and inviting.

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The shop at 2424 Newport Blvd. bills itself as a “medical marijuana information center.” It offers classes on everything from how to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes to how to make pot brownies. The six plants growing underneath special lights in one foil-padded room of the shop are strictly for teaching purposes, the couple said.

“It’s all self-taught,” Alysha McKeen said of the couple’s cultivation skills. “That learning curve is expensive, so we want to share what we know with people.”

The new information center is offering two-day weekend workshops on the basics of growing marijuana, including lighting, air flow and growing equipment.

People can walk in to find out where to get a doctor’s referral for medical marijuana, or how to find an attorney who specializes in medical-marijuana issues.

The couple also plan to organize legal workshops on medical-marijuana issues.

There have been bumps along the way to opening Otherside Farms.

It took the couple nearly a month to get a business license from Costa Mesa, Chadd McKeen said, because the city was concerned that the McKeens were trying to open up a marijuana dispensary, he said.

City officials have served cease-and-desist orders on half a dozen medical-marijuana dispensaries in Costa Mesa in recent weeks. Police raided two more this week, arresting workers on suspicion of felony drug violations.

While Otherside Farms runs a medical-marijuana delivery service, which serves cities across Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Costa Mesa shop is just a place where people can learn more about how to smoke, grow and bake with pot, the McKeens said.

“We took possession of the place on a Friday night, and the city was here at 8 a.m. Monday morning banging on the door,” Chadd McKeen said. “The city flipped out. Nobody knew what to do with us.”

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