Joseph Henderson wasn’t surprised the Larkspur City Council unanimously passed a moratorium banning medical marijuana dispensaries.
But Henderson disagreed with a city staff-prepared document that linked the dispensaries to rising crime.
Henderson, vice president of public affairs with the Friends of Marin Holistic Solutions, told the council during public comment at its April 4 meeting that there hasn’t been any crime associated with a dispensary in neighboring Corte Madera.
Marin Holistic Solutions opened in 2009 and has been town-regulated since 2010.
Twin Cities Police Authority Sgt. Paul Barrolaza told Marinscope Newspapers the department hasn’t had any “real calls for service” at the dispensary aside from security-system alarm calls. “We really haven’t had any issues with them at all. They’ve been doing what the town has asked of them and they have been cooperating with us.”
While Larkspur’s municipal code already prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries, the California Supreme Court is reviewing four Court of Appeals decisions on cities regulating such dispensaries. The court review, and a recent Fourth District Court of Appeals finding on what qualifies as dispensary regulations, put the effect of the city’s ban in limbo. To keep dispensaries out of the town, city staff recommended the council pass the 45-day temporary moratorium.
And the Larkspur City Council gave the moratorium a green light with a 4-0 vote on April 4. Councilman Brad Marsh was absent.
Larkspur city officials reportedly haven’t received any permits for pot dispensaries.
The staff report on the moratorium alluded to a connection between dispensaries and crime. “Some jurisdictions that have approved medical marijuana dispensaries have reported experiencing criminal activity at or near these dispensaries,” wrote Larkspur Senior Planner Neal Toft and City Attorney Sky Woodruff.
But the staff report doesn’t list any specific jurisdictions or dispensaries as examples: “establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city at this time, before the city can adopt regulations or determine how best to address potential secondary criminal effects of these types of uses, presents a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare.”
During the April 4 public hearing, Henderson, the only person to speak during public comment on the moratorium, argued that the staff report was misleading and that it “simply is not the case” that there’s a direct correlation between a cannabis collective and community crime. He pointed to Marin Holistic Solutions’ “excellent relations” with Twin Cities Police Authority officials.
Mayor Len Rifkind asked city staff to respond to Henderson’s statements.
“I was at a presentation by the city of Los Angeles police chief, who described in great detail increases of crime surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles,” Woodruff said.
He said customers coming and going from collectives are “often victims of crime.”
“There is adequate data to support that,” he added.
He also said opinions about crime and collectives could vary from community to community.
“Even among police chiefs around the state you would find diversity of opinion” about cannabis collectives, Woodruff said.
Strict guidelines at Corte Madera dispensary
Henderson is an advocate for strict dispensary guidelines, versus simply banning dispensaries or allowing all access to medical marijuana. “There should be very clear and enforceable regulations. If someone deviates from that, game over,” said Henderson, a Novato resident.
He wouldn’t disclose the number of patients the Marin Holistic Solutions sees, but said the result of December 2011 closures of other Marin dispensaries, including the long-standing Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax and a Kentfield dispensary, have “substantially” increased the number of patients.
Marin Holistic Solutions requires patients to be 21 and over and has a “zero tolerance” for diversion, when “person A gets something and gives it to person B,” Henderson said.
Also, all cannabis that comes from the collective has a tracking number placed on it. “If it’s found in the possession of someone who is not allowed to have it, we will trace it back to the person who purchased it from us and will terminate their membership,” he said.
Barrolaza said the Corte Madera collective isn’t on the department’s radar. “It hasn’t been an issue for us at all.”
A federal investigation led to the closure of a Kentfield dispensary, the Marin Wellness Center, and Fairfax’s Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which was the oldest pot club in California.
The Marin Wellness Center opened in unincorporated Marin County in spring 2010.
At the end of 2011 the Fairfax Town Council passed a resolution voicing opposition to the Department of Justice’s crackdown on dispensaries.
The Green Door Wellness Center, a Novato dispensary at 7586 Redwood Blvd., remains open, although city officials sent a cease-and-desist order last November, the same month city officials expanded a moratorium banning dispensaries.
In March 2011, two Sausalito medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally under a citywide ban were evicted from their Gate 5 Road spaces by the property’s landlord. The two dispensaries, located side by side in Sausalito’s Marinship district, were operating for more than a year and a half.
The San Rafael dispensary Tree of Life closed in 2010 after a county investigation into the operation. There had been complaints about its proximity to a school.
In November 2010 Corte Madera passed a moratorium, but it doesn’t apply to Marin Holistic Solutions. The city has signed an agreement with the dispensary allowing it to stay open as long as it provides a portion of tax to the city, among other items.
The diminishing numbers of cannabis clubs in Marin comes at a time when Bay Area advocates and leaders are voicing opposition to a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries that was announced last October by the four regional U.S. attorneys in California.
The prosecutors said they planned to target large-scale commercial enterprises that operate under the guise of providing medical marijuana, and they would begin by concentrating on dispensaries near schools and parks.
On April 3, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 medical marijuana patients and supporters rallied at San Francisco City Hall to hear six city supervisors and an East Bay pot advocate decry a recent federal crackdown on cannabis dispensaries.
The midday protest was planned five weeks in advance, according to Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer, but coincidentally came the day after federal searches of Oaksterdam University, a cannabis industry trade school in Oakland.
Federal agents searched Oaksterdam’s headquarters and four other Oakland sites associated with Oaksterdam President Richard Lee.
California’s Compassionate Use Act, approved by state voters in 1996, allows seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor’s permission, but federal laws criminalizing the drug make no exception for state medical marijuana laws.
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