Fairfax Turf War Over Medical Pot

Rocky Balboa

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The founding director of Marin's only sanctioned medical marijuana dispensary says the spokesman for a new medical marijuana delivery service is out to get her - but he says she is just blowing smoke. Lynnette Shaw, director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, has obtained a temporary restraining order against Jeffrey Rifkind, the spokesman for We Deliver, a new medical marijuana delivery service that began operating in Marin earlier this month.

Rifkind said he was hired by a Marin couple who are managing the delivery business to help market it. He said he receives no money from sales. Rifkind said the couple want to remain anonymous because they're fearful of reprisals from the federal government.

Rifkind and Shaw are hardly strangers. Rifkind has served as a broker between Shaw's Marin Alliance and the company that processes its customers' credit card payments for a decade.

Shaw claims that Rifkind began making threatening phone calls to her and the staff of her Fairfax dispensary after an article appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on Feb. 5 publicizing the launch of the delivery service.

In documents filed with the court, Shaw states that Rifkind shouted such phrases as, "I'm going to get you.

I'm going to take you down. I'm launching World War Three against the club." Shaw said she fears for her life and has hired a bodyguard. She has asked the court to make Rifkind pay her $500 to cover the guard's salary.

"This is all utter fabrication by Lynnette," Rifkind said. "She doesn't like competition."

When Rifkind visited the Marin Alliance storefront on Feb. 7, Shaw refused him entry and called the Fairfax police to have him removed from the premises. Shaw said Rifkind parked his BMW "with an overly large advertising sign reading, 'Medical Marijuana Delivery'" in the Marin Alliance's parking lot and "tried to sell marijuana out of his car to my incoming clientele."

Shaw said Rifkind has attempted to "buy into my business" several times over the years. The Marin Alliance has 4,800 members and dispenses to about 800 Marin residents each month. Shaw, whose pot clinic logs about $1 million in annual marijuana sales, declined to disclose her salary, or the salaries paid staff members.

The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, situated next door to a Little League field in Fairfax, is the only sanctioned medical marijuana dispensary in Marin. When clubs tried to open in other Marin cities, local officials moved swiftly to ban them.

Rifkind said he visited the Marin Alliance's office on Feb. 7 to notify Shaw that the cost of her credit card redemptions was about to be raised. Rifkind said she had been refusing to take his calls. Rifkind vehemently denies attempting to sell marijuana out of his car.

"If this statement is not retracted entirely, I may have no choice but to bring an action against her for slander and or libel," Rifkind wrote in a court filing.

As for trying to buy the club, Rifkind said he once made an offer on behalf of his brother, Stephen Rifkind, a lawyer who is representing him in Shaw's civil action. The court has granted a temporary restraining order requiring Rifkind to stay away from Shaw until a court hearing can be held to assess the merits of her request. A medical condition kept Rifkind from attending a Feb. 20 hearing date. The hearing is now scheduled for 9 a.m. March 26.

Shaw's attorney, Fairfax Councilman Larry Bragman, said he helped Shaw with her business permit several years ago. Bragman said it was Shaw, not he, who subpoenaed Fairfax police Officer Hector Rodriguez last week to testify at her hearing. Bragman said he hasn't discussed the merits of the case with Rodriguez, who was called to evict Rifkind from the Fairfax dispensary.

"I met him briefly in court - that was the extent of it," Bragman said.

This is not the first time Shaw has sought a restraining order against competitors in the medical marijuana field. In 1997, she asked the court to protect her from Les and Darice McKay, a Point Reyes couple who sought unsuccessfully to open their own medical marijuana dispensary in Marin.

"This is her mode of operation," McKay said after hearing of her feud with Rifkind.

At the time, Shaw declared that the McKays "were threatening to kill me, rub me out and take over the club."

Source: Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead
Copyright: 2008 Marin Independent Journal
Website: Home - Marin Independent Journal
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