A group with ties to a tobacco-importing empire—and supported by a Westlake Village City Council member—is one of five vying to operate East Ventura County’s first legal medical marijuana dispensary.
The last day to apply was March 30.
Among the applicants are both those who’ve been involved in the marijuana industry for years and apparent newcomers.
DBO Investments, which operates From the Earth dispensaries and boasts four facilities in the state—including a Port Hueneme dispensary scheduled to open later this year—is one of the applicants to sell medical pot in T.O.
More familiar to local residents: half-brothers Sean Cassar and Patrick Spillane of Moorpark-based Kretek International. The pair’s father, 81-year-old Hugh Cassar, is one of the Conejo Valley’s wealthiest residents and biggest philanthropists.
The Malta native worked as a CPA, car salesman and real estate broker before starting to amass a fortune in his mid-40s importing clove cigarettes from Indonesia, he told Tobacco Business magazine in a January profile of Cassar.
Applicants Sean Cassar and Spillane have dubbed their new venture Legendary Organics. The LLC incorporated March 14 and lists its business address as 2712 Conejo Center Drive, Newbury Park.
Spillane, on his LinkedIn page, lists himself as senior vice president of IDS Real Estate Group, but the Tobacco Business article says Spillane leads new business development efforts at Kretek. The same article lists Sean Cassar as secretary for the company and president of Ultra Superfoods, one of several Kretek subsidiaries.
Alongside the family members listed in the application is Ned Davis, an 11-year City Council member in neighboring Westlake Village, a city where commercial cannabis is banned.
Davis told The Acorn he does not own any stake in Legendary Organics but is a paid consultant, hired for his knowledge of medical cannabis and his business-consulting expertise.
He said he’s a longtime friend of the Cassar family, who set down their roots in the Conejo in 1970.
“We have a mutual friend who knew of my interest in the medical side of cannabis, my study of it in the last year and a half or so. They were interested in getting into the dispensary (business), so I’ve become a consultant to them,” Davis said.
The elected official said he’s a believer in the medicinal powers of cannabis, specifically CBD, short for cannabidiol, a marijuana extract shown to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. Davis said he’s used CBD products, which don’t cause the user to experience the high normally associated with marijuana, to treat migraines.
“I suffer from migraine headaches and peripheral neuropathy. Medical cannabis is a neuroprotector, and so I began to look at alternatives,” he said.
“There are no real treatments for peripheral neuropathy. My true interest in this is trying to find ways to help people overcome some of the things that are happening to them,” Davis said.
He added, “There’s a lot more to pot than what Cheech and Chong taught you.”
Davis said he voted to outlaw commercial cannabis in Westlake Village only because the city is too small and doesn’t have the proper zoning.
“There’s no real good place for a dispensary operation in Westlake Village, based on state law. You need enough space between where you have that dispensary and where you have community things going on where children can be around it,” he said.
Davis said he would welcome a discussion with any constituent who questions his involvement in the cannabis venture.
“Anybody that wants to sit down and have a conversation with me about this, about cannabis and its legal use, particularly medical, I would love it,” Davis said.
Not all medical marijuana patients are happy to learn people with strong tobacco ties may get the single permit the city is issuing.
“I don’t particularly agree with a tobacco company coming in,” said Newbury Park resident JC Simmons. “That was a huge concern (of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act).”
Though it’s a concern, Simmons said, that alone isn’t likely to keep him from a dispensary.
There are two other conditions of the city’s ordinance, however, that will keep him visiting nearby Woodland Hills, Simmons said.
First is that the council decided to allow only a solitary dispensary and, second, patients will have to make appointments to go into the T.O. store.
“I’m just a patient and want to get my medicine,” he said. “At the Fallbrook exit (near the Ventura/ Los Angeles county border), there are five dispensaries, and I can go into any of them. That’s free market.”
All five entities applying for the Thousand Oaks permit will now enter a four-phase review process conducted by the police department, City of Thousand Oaks staff and the city’s marijuana consultant, HdL Companies.
Any that advance past phase three will earn a date in front of the City Council, when the council will make a final decision regarding the dispensary permit.
That meeting is scheduled for sometime this summer.
Acorn reporter Ian Bradley contributed to this article.