While still in early discussions, Sausalito could be the first municipality in Southern Marin where people can walk into a dispensary and buy cannabis.
The City Council has created a committee to discuss a potential ordinance or resolution to allow storefront cannabis retail. The group includes Councilman Joe Burns, Councilwoman Joan Cox, City Attorney Mary Wagner and Community Development Director Lilly Whalen.
The committee will consider different types of proposals, possible locations, license limitations and the application process. The council is leaning toward establishing a development agreement.
“We have the flexibility to do that, to choose the entity that’s going to provide the maximum benefit to the city and has the best business plan for pursuing this in the city,” Cox said at the council’s meeting on Tuesday. “And, you know, I don’t think we can discount the revenues that are possible to us through the development agreement approach either.”
She added she is no longer in firm opposition to a storefront, a stance she took in past meetings.
Burns said the group is working on the details and there is no set timeline to bring its recommendations back to the council. But he added that lifting bans on dispensaries is past due.
“I really don’t want to go through many more of these meetings,” he said. “It’s an obvious no-brainer to me. I would suggest that we direct staff to actually come back with an ordinance allowing a storefront and get on with this.”
The council expressed opposition to putting a dispensary downtown and suggested it would be a better fit for the Marinship area or the north end of Bridgeway.
Councilman Tom Reilly said there needs to be more discussion with the public about putting a dispensary in the Marinship area, which is zoned for industrial and art uses, not retail. He said the process needs to reconcile that conflict.
“If we do this, we’re going to be one of the first in Marin,” Reilly said. “So this is going to have a lot of visibility. We want to make sure we have a well-thought-out process.”
Fairfax is the only municipality in Marin County that allows the sale of recreational marijuana in storefronts. Other towns and cities only allow delivery services, Whalen said.
She said the city has been in communication with cannabis businesses interested in setting up a store. They include Element7, Fume, Otter Brands and Sparc, according to a city staff report.
“We need to do some kind of process that’s fair and that is defensible, so that if we have various numbers of people who are interested that they get an equal chance of competing,” Vice Mayor Ray Withy said. “If we’re doing it, it sounds like we are not interested in granting an unlimited number of licenses.”
Residents expressed overwhelming support for bringing dispensaries into the city. Many cited the need to inject revenue into the city’s budget and create jobs.
Sausalito resident Debbie Ford-Scriba said stores have already closed and many more might succumb to the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“I’m aware that a large number of Sausalito residents use cannabis delivery services, particularly for CBD products to treat anxiety and pain,” Ford-Scriba said. “Taking all this into consideration, it seems that there couldn’t be a better time to open a revenue-producing, brick-and-mortar cannabis store in Sausalito.”
Two residents have registered opposition. They did not call into the council meeting but wrote letters instead.
Sausalito resident Annie Dorsey said that current delivery services are good enough; that a store would result in people walking and driving around “stoned”; and that there are other products that help with sleep, pain and anxiety.
Dorsey added there is an “outlaw population” of people who live on the boats in Richardson Bay.
“They’re colorful, and I am among those who are glad they’re here,” she wrote. “But why do we want to create a magnet store for them and any other minor recreational druggies in the ”hood’?”
The amount of support for a storefront at Tuesday’s meeting was a stark contrast from the last time the issue was brought to the council, when residents raised concerns over youth addiction and crime.
Burns said he is more concerned about the sale of alcohol or oxycodone to minors than highly regulated cannabis dispensaries.
“The hypocrisy in our community is just over the top and I can’t sit back anymore,” he said.
Bill Johnston, a retired San Francisco juvenile probation officer, said he’s worked with youths and seen the bad that comes out of substance abuse. Still, he supports the opening of a cannabis store in Sausalito.
“I am not a user of the product,” Johnston said. “But plenty of my friends and relatives are and it would be nice for them to be able to get what they need for their arthritis, for their sleeping issues, for all kinds of things that they would like the product for, and have it available locally instead of delivery or going to San Francisco to Fairfax.”