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A medical marijuana organization is asking for county permission to open a retail dispensary at a south Santa Rosa site where the Board of Supervisors spiked a similar proposal in 2012.

The Sonoma County Collective appears before the board Tuesday afternoon asking for permission to open a 1,600-square-foot dispensary at 4170 Santa Rosa Ave., north of Horn Avenue.

The organization promises to offer a secure and comforting environment, citing improvements made on the site to answer objections the supervisors had to the previous proposal.

"We want to have an entirely professional feel, like you are going into a doctor's office with a New Age spin," said Asa Shaeffer, CEO of the collective.

In May of 2012, the supervisors voted 3-2 to reject an application from an unrelated group to put a dispensary at the same site. Critics and county planning staff argued against the proposal on a variety of fronts, emphasizing that it sits within 100 feet of a residential area. The supervisors declined to grant a waiver of that set-back requirement in the county zoning rules.

Only Supervisors Mike McGuire and Efren Carrillo voted in favor of that application by Republic Health Center.

Even though he no longer occupies the office site, Republic owner Randy Dale is challenging the rejection in court.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who represents the area and was outspoken in her opposition to the Republic application, says she is willing to hear Shaeffer's plan "with an open mind."

Shaeffer says he has invested tens of thousands of dollars in improving the property, including installing a redwood plank fence that will screen much of the property from nearby homes. He has promised intensive security precautions to protect the business and keep order on behalf of the neighbors.

The application says that there would be no on-site consumption of marijuana.

"There is nothing more sacred to me than the safety of our collective patients and neighbors," Shaeffer wrote in a letter to supervisors.

At least some neighbors, however, remain adamantly opposed.

Jennifer Sutliff, who lives nearby, said she doesn't care how much Shaeffer promises, she doesn't trust the people who will be attracted to a medical marijuana business.

"There are a lot of people who abuse that .<TH>.<TH>. this will bring in riff-raff, bring in thieves," she said.

Moreover, she has two young children who use a bus stop next to the proposed dispensary and there are other residents in the area with school-aged kids as well. She said she doesn't want her children exposed to marijuana culture every day in such an explicit manner.

Shaeffer said such perceptions of the medical marijuana culture are unfair. The collective has been operating for more than a year as a home-delivery-only operation, he said. His customers are carefully vetted and are genuinely ill and in need of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, he said.

"I have a hard time seeing how we would be hurting the neighborhood," Shaeffer said, citing the level of external security he is proposing. He had even offered to allow the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office to monitor the exterior cameras, he said, but the offer was rejected.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office weighed in against the proposed dispensary, saying it remains a violation of federal law to sell marijuana.

Shaeffer's proposed operation falls outside of Santa Rosa city limits.

Currently, there are five medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the unincorporated parts of Sonoma County, including three on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, one in Guerneville, and one in Larkfield. The supervisors have set a limit of nine.

Three of the nine cities in the county — Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Cotati — permit dispensaries within their city limits.

Shaffer, 28, is positioning his collective as a new type of business in the marijuana world: clean-cut, buttoned-down, and entrepreneurial. He speaks openly about developing a brand that will endure once marijuana is legal nationwide, a development he predicts in the next decade or so.

To meet that eventual demand, Shaffer has been working on specialized strains of marijuana that would become the trademark of his company, including "Cherry Kola," a strain that won a top award at the 10th annual Emerald Cup cannabis competition, held in Santa Rosa last year.

But that entrepreneurial focus on recreational marijuana should not be confused with his altruistic work as a medial marijuana distributor, he said.

He said he has sunk all his savings into the collective and the operation still loses money because he tends to give the marijuana away, or sell at greatly reduced rates, to patients who cannot afford it.

If the supervisors reject the application, "that doesn't mean they will stop me on my path to help people," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or sean.scully@pressdemocrat.com.