Unincorporated Novato fights medical cannabis dispensary sites – Marin Independent Journal


A sometimes-raucous crowd of more than 200 people turned out for a public hearing on four applications to open medical cannabis dispensaries in North Marin.

The meeting, held Thursday in the county supervisors’ chambers at the Civic Center, was the third and last in a series of hearings on 10 applications that the county of Marin is reviewing. In May 2016, supervisors adopted an ordinance that would allow up to four medical cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated Marin. Currently, there are no legal medical marijuana dispensaries anywhere in the unincorporated county or in any of Marin’s 11 municipalities.

As at previous hearings, the majority in attendance were residents voicing their opposition to a dispensary proposed for their neighborhood, citing concerns about increased traffic, crime and a negative effect on property values.

Many live in the unincorporated Black Point/Green Point area of Novato, where three of the sites would be located. Many speakers, even those opposing dispensaries in their neighborhoods, voiced their support for medical cannabis, but not all.

Laraine Woitke, who lives in Green Point adjacent to Black Point, said, “The Drug Enforcement Agency considers California’s legislation reckless and irresponsible; I do too.” As did many speakers, Woitke noted the Black Point dispensary locations’ proximity to Highway 37 and the city of Vallejo.

“We already know that statistically traffic accidents are up because of marijuana use,” Woitke said, “and we should all be very frightened in 2018 when this becomes a legal thing.”

Santa Venetia

Several Black Point residents said they would have no problem with the fourth application, which proposes a dispensary at 70 San Pablo Ave. in the unincorporated San Rafael neighborhood of Santa Venetia. The site is across the street from the Civic Center.

“It seems like a logical place to put a dispensary,” said Patrick Carroll of Novato. “You’re close to a large police force. It seems like a very commercial area.”

But Santa Venetia residents in attendance also spoke out against that proposal, voicing concerns similar to those raised by the Black Point residents.

“There are a lot of children walking past this site. It is the gateway to our community. Please don’t make our neighborhood the guinea pig for this type of facility,” said Nicole Klock, who said she resigned from the board of the Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association after it voted to support the proposal.

Residential sites

Attendees at all three hearings have questioned why most of the proposals being considered are situated close to residential neighborhoods.

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Tom Lai, assistant director of the county Community Development Agency, said, “The simple answer is that there are just not that many commercially zoned properties in the unincorporated areas. And once you apply the county ordinance’s buffering requirements, 800 feet from schools, you knock out even more potentially eligible commercial properties.”

Lai said that most of what people would consider commercial or industrial areas are within Marin’s cities and towns, where the county lacks land use authority.

Two of the competing applicants who presented Thursday night — Caregiver Compassion Group Releaf Center and Marin Compassionate Collective — are proposing opening a dispensary at the same location at 5 Harbor Drive, next to Rossi’s Deli.

‘Marijuana barn’

The Caregiver Compassion Group Releaf Center application was submitted by Douglas Seiler, a Black Point resident, and two Santa Rosa residents who operate a medical cannabis dispensary in Santa Rosa — Berta Bollinger and Don Hat.

The Marin Compassionate Collective application was submitted by Susie Krolicki of Mill Valley, who said she is a naturopathic doctor.

Kimberly Cargile, who helps oversee operation of A Therapeutic Alternative, a medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento, was at Krolicki’s side Thursday night, saying she would be advising him.

Both of these proposals were modest in size compared with the third application for a dispensary in Black Point. Marin Community Partners is proposing to merge lots at 9 Harbor Drive and 11 Harbor Drive, where there is currently a house, and build a 2,800-square-foot building and 22-space parking lot.

One speaker called the project a “marijuana barn,” and another, Jonathan Sommer, said the dispensary would operate much like a cannabis-serving Burger King.

Traffic report

The Marin Community Partners application was submitted by Timothy Schick of San Francisco, who has served as the CEO of the Berkeley Patients Group, a medical cannabis dispensary, for eight years; and William Higgins of Mill Valley, CEO of HUP Inc., which owns restaurants and other enterprises throughout the Bay Area.

In its business plan, Marin Community Partners projects that by its third year of operation it will be serving 9,000 patients and have a payroll of $1.8 million and a net income of nearly $745,000.

In one part of its proposal, Marin Community Partners estimates it will receive only 30 visitors per day, but in the traffic report it commissioned, it estimates it will receive 30 visitors per hour.

Susanna Mahoney, president of the Black Point Improvement Club, which has voted to oppose dispensaries in Black Point, said she suspects that all the applicants have purposely underestimated the number of visitors they will receive.

Donation promised

Delta 11’s application to open a dispensary at 70 San Pablo Ave. in Santa Venetia was submitted by Alessandro Boggio of Novato, who has been operating a medical cannabis delivery service out of that same location since 2012.

Boggio pledged to donate all revenue after “reasonable” expenses to local charities and estimates that would amount to $258,000 in donations by the dispensary’s third year of operations.

Thursday night, as at prior hearings, attendees questioned the need for medical cannabis dispensaries given that a number of delivery services are already operating in Marin. Boggio said there are currently 58 delivery operations advertising their services in Marin.

But Dr. Larry Bedard, a retired emergency medicine physician who used to work at Marin General Hospital and an advocate for medical cannabis, pointed out that when the Medical Cannabis Regulation Safety Act becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2018, only licensed dispensaries will be allowed to make deliveries.

Consequently, if no dispensaries are allowed in Marin, patients here will have to obtain their cannabis from dispensaries outside the county.

Now that the hearings have concluded, the five-member advisory committee that was appointed by County Administrator Matthew Hymel to oversee the meetings will issue its recommendations to Hymel within the next six to eight weeks. Hymel, who will ultimately decide which and how many dispensaries to open, is expected to make his decision by April or May.

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