Fairfax Medical Pot Group Seeking Change In Town Rules

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The state's oldest legally sanctioned medical marijuana dispensary is asking the town of Fairfax to relax the rules under which it operates - including allowing it to start home delivery.
"The town of Fairfax was brave enough to license us in 1997 with 84 conditions, and we haven't violated any of them," said Lynnette Shaw, founding director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana. "We felt it was time to open up the process, improve and modernize restrictions that no other club in the nation has to obey, and make it more friendly for patients."

The request by the School Street Plaza dispensary comes at a time when Californians are considering a November ballot measure that could turn the purchase of small amounts of marijuana from a felony to a source of tax revenue for the state. Should the measure pass, it's possible that cities and towns throughout the state could look to Fairfax - which collects sales tax from the dispensary - as a model.

"If it does pass, it could really change the whole nature of dispensaries," said Fairfax Town Manager Michael Rock. "The initiative allows local governments to make a decision whether or not to tax. It's all up to the local outlets."

When the Fairfax Planning Commission became the first public agency to authorize operation of a medical marijuana dispensary under California's "Compassionate Use Act" of 1996, it did so with caution, placing 84 conditions on the business at the recommendation of the Fairfax Police Department.

The town removed 12 of those conditions in 2001.
After 13 years of operation without an incident, Shaw asked the Fairfax Planning Commission in February to relax another 40 of those restrictions, including those that prohibit minors from entering the building.

"No other club would deny a young person in chemo from coming in and picking out the kind of medicine that appeals to them," Shaw said. Both Sebastopol and Cotati now allow minor patients to enter medical marijuana dispensaries, said Fairfax Planning Director Jim Moore.

Another change would allow the Marin Alliance to provide home delivery to its clients, something Fairfax police have opposed. Shaw says the request is driven by competition from both unlicensed clubs in Marin County and licensed clubs in San Francisco, both of which have begun delivering marijuana to Fairfax residents.

"Ever since the Obama administration backed off, the Bay Area and Los Angeles have been flooded with delivery systems," said Shaw, who plans to provide both insurance and security for home deliveries. "Some of our patients have been scared by the people who showed up when they called for service: people with terrible police records, people who came in with stuff that was old. We think it's important for patients to know who's coming to their door."

Fairfax officials agree the club has stuck to the rules over the years, and they appreciate its financial contribution; while Rock would not reveal the amount the dispensary pays in sales tax, he acknowledged that it was "in the top 10" of Fairfax businesses.

"She's a significant player," Rock said. "And she's run a good business. We haven't had any police actions or problems ever since she opened."

Planning officials are proceeding slowly with Shaw's requests. The Planning Commission debated the club's conditions at its March 18 and April 15 meetings, and is scheduled to take up the issue again on May 20.

"You can imagine with 40 requested revisions, each with its own menu of issues, how challenging it is to get to the finish line," said Moore, who acknowledged that Fairfax is also entering uncharted waters. "One of the reasons we believe this dispensary has been operating without issues is because of the hard work the town and the commission have put in to thinking through all the ifs, ands or buts about how the dispensary could be accommodated."

In addition, commissioners are aware that the success of the proposed "Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010" could change the nature of the Marin Alliance altogether.

"It's conceivable that if the initiative passes in November, dispensaries such as ours, depending on local regulations, could potentially increase their sales by selling to non-medical marijuana users," Moore said.

Should Fairfax choose to simplify its qualifications for medical marijuana dispensaries, it's also possible the change could attract others, bringing Shaw some competition.

"I'm a little surprised by that, in the sense that this is a place where you would expect (other clubs) to be," Rock said.

Shaw disagrees.

"Fairfax is a small town, and people there feel one medical outlet is probably OK for the area," Shaw said. "They don't want to be the Amsterdam of Marin."



News Hawk: Warbux http//www.420magazine.com/
Source: Contra Costa Times
Author: Rob Rogers
Contact: mailto:rrogers@marinij.com?
Copyright: 2010 Contra Costa Times
Website: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_15005279?nclick_check=1