County officials are moving closer to allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Marin’s unincorporated areas — while the Fairfax woman who opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state continues her battle with federal authorities.
A subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors has been working for more than a year to develop an ordinance and hopes to have a model for the full board to consider later this year. Supervisors Judy Arnold and Damon Connolly make up the subcommittee.
Arnold said she and Connolly started with a template based on ordinances in Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol after visiting some successful medical marijuana facilities in Sonoma County.
“We have an outline of a draft ordinance that the community development agency and county counsel are reviewing,” Arnold said. “They’re fine-tuning it.”
Connolly said he and Arnold will likely recommend approving three facilities spread out to serve the north, south and west regions of Marin.
“We’re making sure to create a process that is centered on licensing operators instead of a land use permit,” Connolly said. “It’s important to make sure that the operators are qualified.”
He said the ordinance would include safety features such as a 600- to 1,000-foot buffer from schools. [Editor's Note: This would qualify Marinwood Plaza and Big Rock Deli locations]
Arnold said the next step will be for the subcommittee to meet with key Marin County department heads to discuss the proposed ordinance.
“The sheriff and the district attorney may have some thoughts on this too,” said Deputy County Counsel David Zaltsman, who has been assisting Arnold and Connolly.
Arnold said after the department heads approve the draft ordinance, the subcommittee will meet with people who have demonstrated a special interest in the ordinance, such as prospective operators. Then she said the subcommittee will convene a public meeting to discuss the ordinance before bringing it to the full board for approval.
Connolly said, “We’re hoping to come before the full board with a proposed ordinance certainly within the next few months.”
SAN RAFAEL SITE
One prospective dispensary operator is champing at the bit to get started.
“We’ve rented a location, and we’re just waiting to get approval,” said Alex Boggio, who operates a medical marijuana delivery service.
The space Boggio rented is next door to the Civic Center at 70 San Pablo Ave. Boggio said the site “has been marked by the Board of Supervisors as a location they would find acceptable. We’re hoping that when they’re ready to give out a permit we’ll be a little bit ahead of the game.”
Zaltsman said the county has created maps that show sites that are 600 to 1,000 feet from schools. “However, I do not believe the county — or even staff — has ever suggested that a given location might or might not be appropriate for a dispensary location,” Zaltsman said.
Last week, Boggio, together with San Rafael lawyer Scot Candell, also submitted a request to the county for a business license to operate Cannabiz Labs of Northern California, a “medical services laboratory,” at 70 San Pablo Ave.
Candell said their intent was to open a medical marijuana testing business so that patients can determine the potency of their marijuana and whether it contains impurities such as pesticides, mold or E. coli bacteria.
Roy Given, Marin County’s director of finance, said he rejected the request.
“Businesses have to be in compliance with applicable state and county ordinances,” Given said. “If it’s medical marijuana, we automatically decline any application for a business license.”
Last week weedmaps.com listed a medical marijuana dispensary operating under the name “The 7 Club” at 70 San Pablo Ave. The listing included a phone number, price ranges and days of operation. When reached at that number on Friday, Boggio said he was not doing business from that location.
At one time there were at least half a dozen medical marijuana collectives dispensing cannabis out of Marin County storefronts. After a crackdown by federal prosecutors in 2011, however, none remain. The last, Marin Holistic Solutions in Corte Madera, closed last summer after city officials declined to renew its use permit.
‘I’M NOT EMPLOYABLE’
Lynnette Shaw, who opened the state’s first dispensary in Fairfax in 1996 after the passage of Proposition 215, California’s Compassionate Use Act, was forced to close that storefront in 2011. The closure followed a crackdown by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco.
At about the same time, Shaw was notified by the Internal Revenue Service that she owed $10 million in back taxes. The IRS initially disallowed all of Shaw’s business deductions. Since then, the IRS has scaled back its demands, but the government is still seeking to recover $500,000 in back taxes from Shaw.
Last week Shaw launched a campaign at www.gofundme.com to raise the money she needs to mount a legal challenge to a federal civil injunction that bars her from working in any medical marijuana business. As of Tuesday, she had secured $1,250 in donations.
“I’m not employable anywhere in the industry because of the restriction, and I don’t really have any skills in other areas,” Shaw said.
Shaw is living off general assistance and food stamps. She said the IRS confiscated the $10,000 in savings that she had. Her car has been repossessed, and her future Social Security retirement benefits have been zeroed out.
Matt Greenberg of Sonoma penned a detailed account of Shaw’s travails for the www.gofundme.com plea. Greenberg wrote, “While thousands of (medical marijuana) clubs exist today throughout the United States, the true pioneer and activist, the one at the forefront of this movement remains destitute and destroyed.”
[Editor's Note: Why does the unincorporated areas get the dispensaries, homeless shelters, and subsidized housing? Simple. Four of the Five Supervisors are unaccountable to local community. We need representation from ALL the Supervisors. Time to change voting law to allow us to vote on EACH supervisor.]