Fairfax council delays vote for pot companies amid resistance
A bid to open what would be the second pot shop in Fairfax could be doomed in the face of public opposition.
After a three-hour hearing, the city council voted 4-1 on Wednesday to pursue the case until its next meeting. City staff will present a resolution to deny Element 7’s application to open a dispensary at 930 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
The hearing included approximately 45 minutes of public testimony against the proposal. No one spoke in support. Traffic, public health and safety were among the main points against the plan, including in comments from the majority of council.
Councilor Barbara Coler, who cast the dissenting vote, said: ‘I haven’t heard anything new that tells me this would have an impact on health, safety and general well-being.
“What I’m hearing tonight is frankly no more (cannabis) businesses are welcome,” Coler said. She said the applicants presented a good business plan and “appeared to be well versed in cannabis regulations”.
If approved, Element 7 would replace Mana Bowls, an acai cafe, with a cannabis dispensary called Fairfax Remedy.
The proposal prompted residents to collect more than 700 signatures on a petition against the project. One of the concerns raised is that residents don’t want a cannabis business in Fairfax.
In the fall, the Planning Commission determined that the business would be considered a formula business or chain store and would need a formula business conditional license to operate. City code allows chain businesses without one.
Element 7, which was founded in 2018 and opened its first store in Fort Bragg, filed a lawsuit claiming it was not a chain of businesses, although part of the company merged with Southern California-based Glass House Farms last year.
Josh Black, operations manager at Element 7, also said the company would be willing to address the commission’s concerns about design elements, including paint color, the size of its panels and the style of the railing.
However, if the resolution rejecting the application is approved, the appeal becomes moot.
The proposal includes a walk-in medical dispensary business, which would require customers to have a doctor-authorized medical marijuana card. There would also be a business delivery element: customers 21 and older could order recreational products for home delivery.
Several commenters at the meeting said an adult dispensary is required to obtain a separate business license at a separate address from the medical site. The plaintiffs proposed to operate both from the same address.
“It’s a sticking point in the app,” said Lynnette Shaw, founder and owner of Marin Alliance CBC, the city’s first and only cannabis store.
Shaw said it had to wait a year to pass the inspections in order to operate its business as separate entities.
Residents said the proposed site is too large on Main Street, across from a major transit hub and surrounded by other family businesses.
“I can tell you without a doubt that replacing a youth hangout with a store where 18-year-olds could buy cannabis concentrates is a health and safety risk,” Michelle Leopold said.
Councilman Renee Goddard said council erred when it approved the city’s cannabis trade bylaws, specifically criticizing a zoning map that dictated where dispensaries could be located. Goddard said the council should consider revising the map before receiving any other nominations.
“We need to move the buffers to protect our busiest, best-trafficked multi-age, multi-party spaces in our city,” she said.
The majority of council agreed.
Mayor Stephanie Hellman said this is the first time the city’s cannabis regulations have been tested.
“It was designed for several offers. We have one,” she said. “I think it’s flawed. I think we see that and I think we recognize that this site is not a good location.