Marin is quickly moving forward with the permitting of up to four medicinal marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county, selected from the 12 applications that were submitted. The green rush is on and the San Geronimo Valley may be next in line to become just another notch in the belts of carpetbagging ganja-preneurs and cana-lebrities looking to expand their marijuana empires. For those of us who live in the semi-rural and rural communities of West Marin, it feels like a full-scale invasion. In the valley, a residential area with just a handful of small businesses, a dispensary will radically change the bucolic nature of our community.
That nature began to take shape in 1973, when the Marin Countywide Plan was created to deal with the pressures of development and change. Local communities were encouraged by the county to formulate their own plans to reflect the unique cultural, economic and ecological values of each area.
The San Geronimo Valley created, and the Board of Supervisors approved, a community plan in 1978. Later amended and updated, the plan still serves as a guide for how we live today. Its 10 goals for the communities and beautiful open spaces that populate the valley focus on preserving and enhancing natural resources, protecting the rural setting, assuring that any growth will be consistent with existing character and encouraging a healthy lifestyle that promotes the wellbeing and physical safety of our property, families and children.
With those families and children in mind, I’m confused and upset by the county’s decision to allow up to two dispensaries in the valley. I blame myself for not attending meetings at the county seat that resulted in the development of a plan that today seems unfair and burdensome. But I blame the county for violating many of the goals in a community plan that they wholeheartedly adopted and supported until now.
Had county administrators spent more time in our community, watched our children ride their bikes along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, seen the school bus dropping off kids directly in front of one proposed dispensary or visited the low-income and senior housing immediately adjacent to it, spoken with the one sheriff’s deputy who makes a few rounds through the valley each day, or asked residents for their input, they might have learned that our communities don’t necessarily want and certainly aren’t equipped to handle the complexities that come with marijuana sales.
Over the past few months, we’ve been talking about it at the post office, whispering in the parking lot after dropping our kids off at school, setting up and signing petitions, attending meetings and consoling one another about what the future might bring to our last safe space.
There are so many reasons we don’t want marijuana sold in the San Geronimo Valley: crime, traffic, parking, impaired drivers, limited policing, safety for walkers and bikers, loitering, drug tourism, second-hand sales, marijuana advertising, environmental degradation, increased drug use by our teens and zero economic benefits. But is anyone listening?
In an odd twist, the Board of Supervisors, our elected officials and those most accountable to us, will not be making the decision about where marijuana will be sold. That decision has been left to the county administrator. Even worse, the medical marijuana ordinance allows permit applicants to “lawyer up” and appeal the final decision, but does not afford the communities that will be impacted the same right.
So where does that leave us? Fighting again. Fighting for our kids, for our safety, for our character, for our values. And fighting against the carpet-baggers who don’t know us or our way of life, and don’t even care.
Amos Klausner is a resident of the San Geronimo Valley and the father of a wonderful 7-year-old girl.