As a grassroots group of concerned citizens of the San Geronimo Valley opposed to a marijuana dispensary, we would like to respond to the opinion piece by Natalia Thurston published on Jan. 19 and address misinformation shared by her, an Oakland attorney. Ms. Thurston is representing an applicant who wants to place a dispensary a half-mile from our school in the heart of our rural, community-oriented valley.
Ms. Thurston stated that, based on an October meeting with just a handful of community members, there are four primary concerns about the dispensary. Today, with more community members aware of the issue and with the public posting of her client’s application on the county’s website, our concerns span a wider range of issues associated with the dispensary.
Ms. Thurston mentions traffic. She tries to convince readers that the 50 visits per day her dispensary would receive would result in less traffic than the 200 visits the property received decades ago when it was a gas station. Yet her client’s application states the number of dispensary visits could reach 75, a number 50 percent higher than what she quoted.
Ms. Thurston wants you to believe that 200 people visiting the gas station traveled to the valley just to buy expensive rural gas, adding to existing traffic. That’s not the case. Gas purchases were primarily made by people living in the valley and those already traveling through for work or on commutes.
Dispensary visits, on the other hand, have a much better chance of being destination-specific. And based on her client’s liberal talk throughout the application about “expanding their market” beyond Marin residents and selling pot to recreational users, we should expect visits to surpass 75.
Ms. Thurston goes on to discuss parking. She ignores the fact that perpendicular parking at this location leaves a portion of larger cars in the shoulder or forces all drivers to reverse through the shoulder and onto the roadway. It’s unsafe now and will be less safe with drivers who arrive high or leave high.
Ms. Thurston then veers into child safety and quotes a San Geronimo Planning Group newsletter that stated that very few students use an adjacent pathway and the shoulder of the road. This is incorrect, as are a series of “alternative facts” that were shared by the planning group on the topic of marijuana
A sizeable percentage of students that live west of our nearby school use the pathway and road shoulder at the location to get to and from school. Dog walkers, commuters, seniors and cyclists also use these important circulation routes.
Ms. Thurston is correct to bring up child safety. She addresses the longstanding school bus stop at the location and tries to delegitimize it by saying that it was never formally approved. Ms. Thurston herself, in written correspondence to the county, noted that the bus stop has been in use since 1974. And as a lawyer, Ms. Thurston should know that neither the county nor the state designate or approve school bus stops. This has been confirmed with the Marin Community Development Agency, the Department of Public Works and the Lagunitas School superintendent.
Ms. Thurston goes on to suggest that we accommodate the dispensary by moving the bus stop over 1,000 feet down the road. Accommodate a marijuana dispensary over our kids and our schools?
Finally, Ms. Thurston mentions crime. Throughout her client’s application and in conversation with stakeholders, she has been quick to say that this all-cash business is safe, despite media reports that say otherwise. She tries to alleviate our concerns by stating that the annual $12,000 licensing fee will be used to increase law enforcement patrols in the area. This statement is not true. We spoke with the Community Development Agency, which confirmed that the licensing fee is currently earmarked to pay staff costs associated with reviewing reports, conducting regular inspections, monitoring and code enforcement. And our concerns about crime must be valid because Ms. Thurston, in correspondence with the county, suggested an additional tax on the dispensary to actually pay for additional law enforcement patrols.
Ms. Thurston’s misstatements are just the tip of the iceberg. We encourage all community members to read the dispensary application posted to the county’s website and attend the public meeting hosted by the county’s advisory committee on the medical marijuana dispensary applications on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Lagunitas School. As a reminder, this dispensary is opposed by the Lagunitas School board of trustees, the board of directors of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, Lagunitas School Superintendent John Carroll, Lagunitas School Principal Laura Shain, the West Marin Coalition for Healthy Kids and a majority of San Geronimo Valley
Kristina Putalik is a parent and resident of the San Geronimo Valley.