Corte Madera Medical Pot Dispensary to Stay Open Until 2014

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax, published in Marin Independent Journal

A compromise was reached to allow patients to receive safe and affordable access locally in Corte Madera, at least through 2014. (Photo credit: Dan Heller)

Corte Madera has signed a settlement agreement allowing a Tamal Plaza medical marijuana dispensary to stay open until June 2014, so long as it hands over a portion of gross sales and doesn’t accept new patients younger than 21, among other requirements.

Marin Superior Court Judge James Ritchie on Monday approved the agreement among Corte Madera, Marin Holistic Solutions operator Verdance Inc. and landlord Francisco Properties, officials said.

“Given the rapidly escalating costs of this litigation, the Town Council believed its fiscal obligations compelled reassessing the wisdom of further prosecuting its case to remove (Marin Holistic Solutions) from the town, when … it could achieve the same result — albeit later than the town had initially envisioned,” Town Manager David Bracken said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Marin Holistic can continue operating in an office complex at 200 Tamal Plaza until May 31, 2014, when its lease expires. But it must label all marijuana products with warnings and install video cameras and a burglar alarm system. It cannot accept any new members under age 21 or put up signs outside the building.

The collective, which opened in 2009, previously allowed patients over 18 to buy medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval, managers have said.

Beginning in January 2013, Marin Holistic also must hand over 1.4 percent of its gross receipts to Corte Madera, with 25 percent going to drug and alcohol education. The town will use the remaining 75 percent for general fund expenses.

Bracken noted he isn’t sure how much that sum will come to, saying, “it’s not a tremendous amount, but it does add to the coffers.”

Dorji Roberts, an attorney representing Marin Holistic, said he also is unsure how much money will go to Corte Madera.

“Certainly, we’re pleased that they’ll be able to stay open for three-and-a-half years, (although) we would have preferred that the town not initiate the litigation,” Roberts said. “We hope that the town takes a hard look at this issue and comes to the conclusion that they should be allowed to remain and continue to serve their patients after the (agreement) ends.”

Margaret Weems, the landlord’s attorney, said her client is also pleased with the settlement, which dismisses him as a defendant.

“It seems like all of the stakeholders here — commercial landlords, the town’s ‘silent majority’ who support safe access, patients and concerned parents all came away with something that they can point to and say ‘this is good,'” Weems said in an e-mail.

Corte Madera already receives one cent of every taxable dollar from Marin Holistic through the state Board of Equalization — “the same sales tax that everyone else is paying,” Town Treasurer George Warman said.

Should the Corte Madera Town Council decide to permit and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, Marin Holistic may apply for permission to operate beyond June 2014, the agreement states.

In May, Corte Madera’s Planning Commission began considering an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries that would have allowed Marin Holistic and Going Green, a second dispensary that opened in the same complex, to apply for licensing. However, the Town Council later voted in closed session to authorize cease-and-desist letters that warned the clubs to stop operating by June 25, Town Attorney Jeffrey Walter said at the time.

On July 16, Walter filed a complaint in Marin Superior Court to stop Marin Holistic from storing, cultivating or distributing medical marijuana, which the town says are not permitted uses under current zoning code. Going Green wasn’t sued because it had already moved out of the complex.

Both supporters and opponents of Marin Holistic said they were happy with Monday’s settlement agreement.

Laurie Dubin, who works on drug and alcohol education for the Redwood High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association and has been a vocal opponent of the dispensary, said she is pleased about the new 21-plus age requirement and the money going to substance-abuse prevention.

“Given the cost of litigation, I think that the town made the best that they could out of this situation,” Dubin said. “I’m thrilled at the 21 years of age requirement.”

Meanwhile, Mill Valley resident Barbara Summers, 64, said she’s relieved she will still be able to buy edible medical marijuana products for her sciatica, anxiety and sleep problems at Marin Holistic.

“It’s the most convenient (dispensary) in Marin,” Summers said. “It’s totally clean, professional. … As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pharmacy.”

Earlier this month, the Corte Madera passed a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Fairfax, home to the 13-year-old dispensary Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, passed a similar moratorium on new pot clubs in October.

Fairfax receives the standard 1 percent of Marin Alliance’s sales tax and doesn’t get any extra money from the club, Town Manager Michael Rock said, noting that the dispensary is among the town’s “top 10” sales tax producers.

“We do receive their fair share of the state sales tax,” Rock said. “It’s a significant (number), relatively speaking. We’re a small town.”

Warman noted that Marin Holistic is not one of the top sales tax producers in Corte Madera, which is home to the Town Center Corte Madera and the Village at Corte Madera shopping centers.

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