Upfront: The Deliverance

Will Marin County puff-puff pass a delivery-only medical cannabis ordinance?

Many towns in Marin have passed local laws to keep storefront cannabis out of their communities, but Fairfax is an exception.

After public outcry nixed a plan that would have brought four brick-and-mortar cannabis dispensaries to unincorporated Marin, the Marin County Board of Supervisors are now pushing out an ordinance that would render the county’s cannabis business a delivery-only affair.

The revised cannabis ordinance is still not good enough to pass muster with cannabis conservatives, says Amos Klausner, a resident of San Geronimo who opposed the dispensaries and is now opposed to the delivery-only matrix, which he says would bring crime, traffic and other potential public-safety issues to bear on the unincorporated parts of the county.

Among other issues, Klausner is concerned about cannabis warehouses, which he says would be a magnet for crime in a part of the county with scant law enforcement resources.

“We don’t have a police force out here, we have a sheriff who rolls by once a day,” says Klausner, a 45-year-old native New Yorker who has lived in Marin County for two decades. “This is not why we moved here.” He cites rampant opposition to dispensaries and cannabis warehouses emerging from across multiple demographics and sensibilities in the county. It’s not just a bunch of fuddy-duddies.

Klausner is himself a user of medical cannabis and says that he gets his product mostly from the Harborside dispensary in Oakland. He hopes and expects that the latest ordinance under consideration will have an ample airing-out in public meetings, and makes no apology for his NIMBY-ist attitude toward cannabis in West Marin.

“We haven’t seen any opportunity yet for us to let the county know whether we want a marijuana warehouse in our community,” says Klausner, a graphic designer and author by trade, who has a school-age child in the local school district.

As he reads from the new ordinance during a phone interview, Klausner says his problem with the new delivery-only model is that it doesn’t define “delivery” adequately and leaves open a door, he says, for the sorts of legal loopholes exploited by a delivery service in San Rafael—and which he says he used on occasion. “There’s the need to have the medicine,” he says, “and then there’s the community.”

This service had a well-known system where a medical-marijuana customer would enter a room where all of the cannabis product was held, and place an order.

Then the cannabis would be “delivered” to a room across the hall. “How do you police that?,” Klausner asks. He adds that if all of the cities and towns in Marin were allowing delivery warehouses, storefront dispensaries and recreational storefronts, “I wouldn’t be so bothered.”

The issue for him is that the county seems intent on shunting whatever cannabis businesses do develop in the post-Proposition 64 landscape into West Marin. “San Rafael has a robust police force,” he says, “and we have nothing. If everyone’s got it then I’m OK with it, but you can’t force it upon a small group of people.”

Many towns in Marin have passed local laws to keep storefront cannabis out of their communities. The notable exception is Fairfax, which has an operating medical-cannabis storefront, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which opened in 1996, was shut down by the feds in 2011 and reopened in June thanks to the tenacious efforts of medical-cannabis pioneer Lynette Shaw.

“Once this goes legal there are cities and towns in Marin that may reconsider,” says Klausner, who highlights that towns and municipalities across Marin County have passed local laws outlawing storefront dispensaries. But with legalization underway, he adds, “you may find that the lure of the tax revenue is too great for San Rafael. So why can’t the county just be patient and wait and see what the cities and towns do?”

The irony of Marin County’s general disposition of conservatism in the face of the cannabis-legalization initiative, Prop 64, and the tax-glut cannabis playground unfolding to the north in Sonoma County and Santa Rosa—a de facto extension of the Emerald Triangle—is not lost on Klausner. But neither is the associated crime that comes along with big grows, he adds, citing a raft of gruesome and pot-related crimes that have sprung up in Mendocino County in recent years.

One of the key tenets of the new cannabis legalization regime unfolding in the state is the imperative placed on law enforcement to crack down on illegal grows and make every effort to end the black market sale of cannabis.

But since most of the cannabis that grows in California is shipped out to states (such as New York) where it remains illegal, the black market isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, unless U.S. President Donald J. Trump orders Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the federal fatwa on weed, which seems unlikely.

Still, Klausner remains supportive of the push to legalize, since he says that it could serve to spread the cannabis business around the county and into cities that are better prepared to deal with whatever law-enforcement issues emerge.

Brian Bjork, director/partner of Marin Gardens, which delivers medical cannabis throughout the county, says, however, that “safety is not any more of an issue in delivery than in a storefront. Bjork would like to have a storefront operation, and says that the county should allow them, “but I don’t really blame them since 98 percent of the naysayers are OK with delivery.”

For Bjork, the problem with the new delivery ordinance is that it could open a floodgate of delivery operations from places other than Marin County, such as San Francisco, and put operations like his out of business in the process.

Bjork, a 35-year-old native of Marin County who has been in the medical cannabis business for a decade, notes the irony of a self-identified “progressive” county that gave rise to the 420 movement and the Grateful Dead emerging as one of the more cannabis-wary counties in the region.

“Is it our population is a little different? The beliefs—we are maybe a little more conservative,” he says, but the bigger problem in Marin isn’t a conservative population, but a lack of public education and outreach. “Up north, further north, it’s more part of the cultural landscape. Santa Rosa is more up to date on education, but Marin hasn’t taken the time to educate the population or the county on how [medical cannabis] works.” (At press time on September 19, the supervisors had a public workshop on the ordinance scheduled.)

While Santa Rosa has been rolling out the red carpet and Sonoma County is falling over itself to extend the deadline for licensees, Bjork says that Marin is waiting for the Prop 64 state law to fully kick in next year and is not really taking a proactive approach to the potential tax (and health) bonanza that awaits.

In the meantime, the newest dispensary law, Bjork says, still leaves open the sticky question of the location of the eventual delivery-only businesses. It’s a sticking point for Klausner.

“I do think that this time around they are going to start issuing some licenses,” he says, “delivery, non-storefront only, it will go through—but the location is going to be the problem again.” His suggestion is for the county to pick the four best available delivery services (he hopes his is one of them), and then tell those businesses where they’re allowed to set up shop. The proposals will be “scored” by the county using various metrics such as business viability and proposed location.

When it comes to location, Klausner says not in his backyard, under any circumstances. “While we are liberal in our politics, the county voted overwhelming to support recreational, I understand that.” But he says there’s a big chasm between support for legalization and the actual implications on localities as the roll-out ensues. “When I’m accused of NIMBYism,” he says, “I say, ‘Is it OK if I open up a nuclear waste facility in your backyard?”


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