Pubdate: Sat, 28 Aug 2010
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Rob Rogers


Fairfax, the first city in California to allow a medical marijuana
dispensary, is considering a six-month moratorium on such shops amid a
slew of requests to open more.

Fairfax is already home to the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana,
the oldest legally-sanctioned marijuana distribution center, which
opened in 1997. Yet town officials say they want to wait on any new
facilities until after the Nov. 2 election. That's when voters will
consider Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would legalize
marijuana for recreational use throughout California.

"If the ballot measure legalizing and taxing marijuana passes
statewide, the entire terrain is going to shift," said Fairfax Mayor
Lew Tremaine, who will bring the matter before the council at its
meeting Wednesday.

"We're going to have a whole lot to deal with in terms of how the new
law is implemented in town and how it impacts the existing medical
marijuana facility," Tremaine said. "So it doesn't make sense to me to
be entertaining any more of them until we know what things will look
like if it comes to pass."

For more than a decade, Marin Alliance founder Lynnette Shaw was the
only person to seek permission to operate a marijuana dispensary in
Fairfax. During the past year, however, as the Obama administration
has relaxed a government crackdown on licensed facilities - which are
still illegal under federal law - dispensaries have proliferated
throughout the Bay Area, prompting other Marin communities to ban them.

Those prohibitions - in Corte Madera, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Sausalito
and the unincorporated areas of the county - have increased the
pressure on Fairfax to welcome new dispensaries, town officials say.

"It seems to have picked up during the last six months," said Linda
Neal, a senior planner for the town. "We get a call every week and a
half to two weeks" from someone interested in opening a dispensary,
she said.

Only two potential owners have actually filed applications for a new
business - and both were rejected by the Fairfax Planning Commission
at its Aug. 19 meeting. In each case, the proposed dispensaries would
not have provided enough parking spaces to satisfy a town ordinance.

In addition, the dispensaries - both of which planned to open on Sir
Francis Drake Boulevard, near the town's border with San Anselmo -
would have been located in residential areas, prompting concerns from
neighbors and other nearby businesses. Both businesses had proposed
extensive safety measures, including bulletproof windows, security
cameras and lights.

"There's a day care center near there and a place that tutors
children," Neal said. "Both were concerned about safety issues."

Because Fairfax has no law on its books governing the operations of a
medical marijuana dispensary - and because few, if any, such laws
exist statewide to act as a precedent - the town must evaluate each
request on a case-by-case basis, requiring a great deal of time and
effort, Planning Director Jim Moore said. A recent request by Alliance
director Shaw to modify the terms of her use permit - including
creation of a delivery service - occasioned more than 20 hours of
deliberation by the Planning Commission.

"I think now, rather than continue having to use staff time to deal
with each one of these applications, it behooves us to set parameters
within an ordinance about where and when dispensaries should come in."

Town Manager Michael Rock agrees, but believes the best time to create
an ordinance is after the Nov. 2 election.

"If the proposition passes, how many marijuana shops do we allow? And
where should they be located?" Rock said. "Could they be in a grocery
store or another existing business, or would they have to be a
separate business?

"All these things have to be sorted out," Rock said. "But we will
still have the right to limit certain types of businesses through
zoning ordinances and our general plan."

IF YOU GO: The Fairfax Town Council will consider adopting a
moratorium on the establishment of new marijuana dispensaries when it
meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Women's Club, 46 Park Road. 
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