Dispensary threatens valley life

01/05/2017

I am a San Geronimo Valley resident and I want to comment on the marijuana dispensary proposed for 6700 Sir Francis Drake in Forest Knolls, the property now inhabited by the Farm Stand, Garageland Marketplace and the espresso stand. 

First, the proposed location is directly adjacent to Marin County housing for seniors along Sage Lane. A busy dispensary would disrupt the seniors’ home life with increased noise and traffic. Customers would be parking in front of seniors’ homes, blocking walkways and driveways. Sage Lane would also be used as a turn-around, as it is only a block or so long. 

The dispensary would be a magnet for outsiders, individuals with no regard for the valley or our elderly residents. We owe our elders better than putting trouble on their doorstep. The Sage Lane residents are opposed to the dispensary, but many are either computer illiterate and left out of the electronic comment process or have mobility issues and cannot go to meetings. They are being discriminated against because of their age. If the county is genuinely interested in the well-being of these residents, they should go door to door and ask their opinions.

Second, the road in front of the proposed location is a footpath and bus route for children attending Lagunitas School and other schools over the hill. Children would be forced to walk back and forth in front of a business where drugs are sold, and coming into contact with the individuals buying said drugs. Certainly the proximity to school bus stops is itself problematic. 

Third, there is already a trio of thriving local businesses at this location. Garageland Marketplace is a collaborative of local antique dealers. Its closure would affect not one business, but seven or eight owned by San Geronimo Valley residents. The locally owned espresso bar has become a meeting point for our community, and the farm stand sells almost exclusively Marin-raised and grown products. Closing it would hurt farmers, ranchers, fisherman and dairy and cheese producers. It would be a black eye upon a county that champions these small-scale, sustainable producers. 

We have no grocery store in the valley; we are the rural equivalent of a food desert. Many moms and dads can be seen ducking into the stand in the evening to grab healthy things for dinner for the kids. Would you take access to fresh vegetables and meats away from our community in favor of marijuana?

Fourth, there is simply not enough business within the San Geronimo Valley area, based on population and household income, to justify the cost of setting up and operating this kind of business. The numbers are not there, so why invest in a rural community that cannot give you a return on your investment? This dispensary would depend on patronage from outside the valley, individuals coming into our community for the express reason of buying drugs. 

Fifth, marijuana is a “cash only” industry, with banks refusing to take funds generated from sales. This means that either armored cars will regularly pick up large amounts of cash, employees will themselves transfer large amounts of cash or large amounts of cash will be kept on site. This creates the perfect situation for armed robbery, introducing a serious criminal element into our community. 

Finally, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is one lane from West Fairfax to Olema; for 14 miles there is neither a traffic light nor a stop sign. People unfamiliar with our narrow, twisting roads will use the “Weed Maps” app to find the dispensary; they will buy drugs, use them and attempt to drive. There will be a wild uptick in accidents and car-related deaths. 

I have been involved in rural and agricultural water and fire prevention for years, writing and lecturing on both subjects. I have worked with, lectured to and written for the cannabis industry on water use and fire prevention. I participated in the Marijuana Business Journal Expo in Orlando last year. 

Marijuana has been growing into a huge business for years. Investors want hard returns. The economic model for most dispensaries is to sell the absolute highest-potency marijuana; indoor crops grown with chemicals are unnaturally forced into harvest five or six times a year. This is not the marijuana patch on the hillside of bygone days; this is the equivalent of G.M.O. crops, chemicals and ridiculously strong narcotics. There is nothing innocent here; it is all about potency and profits.

I am not anti-marijuana, and I am never anti-business, but I am absolutely against this dispensary, which would only serve to benefit its investors, not our community. It is a bad deal for the San Geronimo Valley, and makes no business sense. I urge readers to make their own voices heard on this issue.

 

Gregory Slugocki has lived in the San Geronimo Valley for two years.