Pubdate: Tue, 31 May 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Louis Sahagun


Businessman Seeks to Open Dispensaries, Share Revenue With Schools

 From a veranda overlooking Avalon harbor, real estate broker Mark 
Malan gazed at oceanfront cottages, a curved promenade and passing 
sailboats with brightly colored pennants.

To tourists, it was a place to bask in sun and surf just an hour from 
the California coast. But that's not what the Long Beach businessman saw.

Malan aims to turn his real estate office here into the first medical 
marijuana dispensary on Santa Catalina Island, and he's trying to 
make the idea attractive by promising to share a small portion of the 
revenue with local schools and city government.

"It's going to create wheelbarrows of money," Malan said, adjusting 
his broad-rimmed straw hat over a confident smile. But just how much 
of that windfall would go to schools is unknown.

A petition drive he led gathered enough signatures to put an 
initiative on the ballot that would repeal a current ban on medical 
marijuana dispensaries and allow at least two facilities in the 
three-square-mile resort community with a population of roughly 3,800.

The Avalon Medical Cannabis Facility Act of 2016 would impose an 
annual license tax of $10,000 per dispensary and direct 50% of that 
amount to Avalon Schools, a K-12 complex of 750 students operated by 
the Long Beach Unified School District.

The initiative would also impose a 12% transaction fee for all 
medical marijuana purchases, which would be directed as follows: 
one-third to drug and alcohol education for local students, one-third 
to Avalon's general fund and one-third to its parks and recreation 
department. It would prohibit dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a 
public school.

Critics say the amount of money for schools is small and argue that 
it is a transparent gesture to try to win public support.

"All he's doing is creating a marijuana problem - then giving back a 
pittance to deal with it," said Scott Chipman, Southern California 
chair of Citizens Against Marijuana. "I wouldn't care if he put every 
penny into schools. It's making a deal with the devil."

When critics point out that most of the revenue would go to Malan and 
his associates, Malan counters with a question: "Why do you hate kids?"

Malan said he hoped voters would keep an open mind. "Think of all the 
field trips and summer programs that will pay for" to help students, he said.

The Avalon City Council next week is expected to decide when to put 
the initiative on the ballot, where it will require a two-thirds 
majority to pass.

The council has three options: It can hold a special election in 
June, place the initiative on the November ballot or delay a vote 
until the next election cycle in 2018.

Malan and his business associates have already filed applications 
making them eligible to open two dispensaries, including one in his 
Santa Catalina Real Estate office, a few doors down from the main 
entrance to the new $10-million Catalina Island Museum.

"Critics say I just want to open a dispensary there because it will 
attract some of the visitors flocking to the new museum," he said. 
"You know what? They're right."

A majority of the five-member council signed the petition: Mayor Anni 
Marshall and Councilmen Richard Hernandez and Joe Sampson. Two others 
- - Oley Olsen and Cinde Mac-Gugan-Cassidy - chose not to sign it.

In an interview, Sampson summed up his support: "Money going to 
schools and medicine going to sick people - what's wrong with that?"

Olsen disagrees. "I don't think this is a good idea for Avalon," he 
said. "Kids have enough access to drugs and alcohol."

Unknown is whether the Long Beach Unified School District would 
accept funds from a medical marijuana dispensary. Chris Eftychiou, a 
spokesman for the district, declined to comment except to say, "Final 
decisions are up to our board."

The election could be hotly contested. The city of about 2,000 
registered voters has a reputation as deeply resistant to change.

About 88% of the 75-square-mile island is owned by the nonprofit 
Catalina Island Conservancy. The Catalina Island Co. owns about 11% 
of the land mass, and about 1% is owned by private individuals and 
the city of Avalon.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom