Are owners of Ethnobotanica just blowing smoke?

November 2, 2015

Medical marijaunaBy KAREN VELIE

The founder of a medical marijuana business attempting to open a dispensary in San Luis Obispo County has a lengthy criminal history, including a felony arrest and conviction for possession of a dangerous drug with intent to sell.

Ethnobotanica is seeking to open a 2,500-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary at 2122 Hutton Road in Nipomo, near the edge of the Santa Barbara County line. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve the facility Tuesday afternoon.

Since 2008, Ethnobotanica has operated a delivery service providing medical marijuana to residents of several counties in California.

Ethnobotanica founder Ryan Leroy Booker, 36, was first arrested in San Luis Obispo County in 1998. Over the next eight years, Booker was charged locally on 25 separate occasions with misdemeanors including drunk in public, battery, public consumption of alcohol and trespassing, according to San Luis Obispo County Superior Court records.

In Santa Cruz County, Booker has also been arrested several times. In 2001, Booker was arrested on four charges. At the time, he was operating under the alias Ryan Leroy Sage, according to court records.

“The arrests were because law enforcement officers do not understand the law,” said Ethnobotanica executive director Stephanie Kiel.  “The charges (in Santa Cruz County) have all been dropped.”

On Feb. 1, 2002, a Santa Cruz County jury found Booker guilty of a felony charge of possession with intent to sell a dangerous drug. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail followed by probation that ended on June 19, 2005, according to court records.

“I had some mushrooms on a beach in Santa Cruz,” Booker said in a telephone interview Monday night. “They were not even my mushrooms. I took the fall for a girl whose mushrooms they all were.”

Booker said he made mistakes, but 10 years ago when Stephanie Kiel gave birth to their son, he cleaned up his act.

“I made mistakes as a young person, I corrected those mistakes,” Booker said. “I have only been arrested once since my son was born.”

It is unclear who the executive director of Ethnobotanica is. Multiple newspaper articles, some from the same publications, have varying answers. Booker and Kiel have both claimed to be the founder of the company. Booker says Ethnobotanica began operating in 2008.

Kiel claims Booker no longer works for Ethnobotanica. However, an employee who answered the phone Monday said Booker had just left for the day.

“He just likes to come and hang out,” Kiel said.

State records and media reports give a hazy picture of the company’s leadership.

In 2009, Ryan Booker filed corporation records for the Ethnobotanica Patient Cooperative with the California Secretary of State’s Office.

In 2011, Kiel, Booker’s long-time friend and the mother of his two children, filed corporation records for Ethnobotanica and Booker dissolved Ethnobotanica Patient Cooperative, according to state records.

Nevertheless, in stories based on interviews with Booker in 2012 through 2014 with the SLO New Times, CalCoastNews and the Tribune, Ryan Booker is listed as the executive director of Ethnobotanica.

That was before those behind Ethnobotanica began planning to open a brick and mortar marijuana shop in Nipomo. In a 2015 Tribune article, a reporter writes that Kiel founded Ethnobotanica Patient Cooperative in 2009.

“We knew this (his criminal history) was going to come up,” Booker said when asked why the differing stories. “We started the business together.”

Kiel and Booker blame the exposure of his criminal records on former employees who have competing businesses.

“Employees go off and start their own businesses, and then they start spreading lies,” Kiel said.

Booker blames competition in a highly lucrative industry where marijuana dispensaries and delivery services are run as nonprofits.

“They are operating delivery services that will be wrecked if the dispensary is open,” Booker said.

In response to questions about the nonprofit status of Ethnobotanica, Booker said there is a lot of money to be made in salaries. Booker compared medical marijuana dispensaries to the government.

“It’s like the county,” Booker said. “Its a nonprofit, with the sheriff making six figures. You can’t have ownership, but you are still allowed to make money.”

When asked who the original board members were when he started Ethnobotanica Patient Cooperative in 2009, Booker said Kiel was the only board member.

“You only need one board member, I have lawyers,” Booker said.

In the past eight years, since the county approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries under limited conditions, county supervisors have rejected three different proposals.

In July, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve Ethnobotanica’s proposal, with District 4 Commissioner Jim Harrison dissenting.

Nevertheless, multiple public officials including the sheriffs from both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, have voiced concerns over increased crime if the dispensary is approved.


The “medical” marijuana farce has always been just that. Years ago it was put on the ballot here in CA because it would “give those with terminal illnesses relief”. What a crock! It was NEVER about those with real illnesses. It was ALWAYS about potheads getting it legally.


Almost anyone can get a card after a 2 minute visit with a doctor.

Fraud and abuse are part of part of the system.


Shut up! Would you like snooping around in your medicine cabinet making accusations and telling you what to take? Phuck off!


My point is proven. Thank you.


You havent proved shit.


You’re wrong it was about both. But apparently it takes images of nearly dead cancer patients suffering to get you to do that right thing. You know how many laws are put into place that are never about what they claimed to be? Deal with it.


I have no real issue with the legalization of marijuana for adults but I would want to see strict regulation as related to people under 21 due to the affect on developing brains.

This said Booker should not be allowed to run a dispensary because of his significant arrest history which suggests a lack of responsibility.

Approving this couple to run a dispensary would be an absolute train wreck and any county supervisor who would approve them to run a dispensary would be an idiot.

My question is why didn’t someone do a basic background on Booker when he applied?

Is this really all about the county getting a cut of the action?


“I have only been arrested once since my son was born.” -___-

Jorge Estrada

My opinion is that drugs should be sold at the drug store from the pharmacist side of the counter. Whether it be for treatment of recreation, it won’t be sold to children yet legitimately readily available. Oh yes a record should be kept so that recreational users are not eligible for welfare, affirming that we are a country which embraces choices.


I have only been arrested once since my son was born.

That is nothing to brag about.


What a surprise. An industry that has been illegal for 50years and all of a sudden made legal is of course going to be run by people with criminal records. They have been engaged in illegal activity until it wasn’t illegal anymore.


Once again — CNN reveals facts on a grave matter of importance to the citizens — especially in Nipomo and the Southern District of the SLO County.

If a medical marijuana business is to be accepted as a legitimate commercial enterprise, consistent with the law as sanctioned by the State and County, it is appropriate that its founders and manager have backgrounds as citizens that suggests, if not substantiates, the business is not a criminal enterprise serving a criminal intent or that the consequences of its establishment would inspire crime.

The question is particularly acute considering the growing acceptance of marijuana for both social and medical applications.

It is one thing for the citizens and County to accept the establishment of a legitimate medical marijuana business. It cast a dark shadow over such a venture, however, when there is the suggestion that it may be inspired with criminal intent considering the character of its founders.

This begs the question, why should it be approved and not denied? CNN once again sizes the question, factually and decisively for CNN’s readers.


Apparently Karen Vilie doesn’t understand the basics of the legal system. Stephanie Kiel owns the business, not Ryan Leroy Booker. Booker’s business was dissolved four years ago, according to this article. Yet the reporter still calls him the founder. Legally, he is just an employee of the business run by Stephanie Kiel.

Non-profit businesses have profit just like a for-profit business, if they didn’t, they could stay operating. They just don’t have to pay income taxes on corporate profits.Why is that a controversy or even news? If Karen Velie report wants to report on non-profit status abuse, why not report on the Clinton Foundation, which is the front for the Clinton crime family racketeering operation. Or perhaps Jesse Jackson’s extortion business called the Rainbow coalition? A person who has a criminal record should be free to start a business to service consumer demands. This guy is trying to earn money by servicing his fellow man, which is how any decent person should earn a living. I would never use his services, but I have no problem if other people do. I’m adamantly opposed to using drugs, but I respect the right of other people to put whatever they want in their body since they own their body.


” why not report on the Clinton Foundation, which is the front for the Clinton crime family racketeering operation. Or perhaps Jesse Jackson’s extortion business called the Rainbow coalition?”

Um, because the two things you mentioned are not local, and this is.

“This guy is trying to earn money by servicing his fellow man, which is how any decent person should earn a living.”

“servicing fellow men” is called prostitution and is not exactly how decent people earn a living.

This article is just reporting on public information that we all should know if this person is seeking a permit to run a public business.


Every legitimate business serves his fellow man. Your grocery store provides you food. A gas station provides you gas. A department store provides you cloths. A pot shop provides pot to those your will use it.

The ‘person’ seeking to open that business is Stephanie Kiel, not Ryan Leroy Booker as Karen Vilie falsely implies.


“The ‘person’ seeking to open that business is Stephanie Kiel, not Ryan Leroy Booker”

How do you know that? What are your sources for this information? Are you Ryan Leroy or a friend of his trying to cover for him?

Also, if Booker is not involved, why is Booker is listed as the executive director of Ethnobotanica?


Great! If the dispensary thing fails, there’s a job waiting for him working for SLO county government.

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