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Of Marijuana, Painting the Town & the Rat Squad

Columnist: Bill Meagher
April, 2018 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

Marin is taking a cautious approach when it comes to the cannabis business. San Anselmo is a great example of how a slow the pace is and what the issues are.

Last October, the town council passed an ordinance banning businesses from locating in town if they offered either medical or recreational pot for sale. But the council also allowed for exceptions if the business could obtain a zoning amendment from the council.

Despite recreational marijuana having been legal in California under state law since 1996, and recreational pot gaining a state blessing this year, Marin has but one dispensary that is open, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, and 26 delivery services—this in the county that is famed for its liberal viewpoints, its Kumbya soundtrack and bear hug of all things organic.

The Alliance has been open for years and is a pioneer in the pot business, having braved more than one assault by the feds. And today it sits in Fairfax, the lone storefront cannabis business in the county.

In San Anselmo, four groups would like to change that. They include long-time optical store Focus Opticians that sees its future as a recreational cannabis outlet, another group looking to get into medical cannabis, Sky Dancer Biologics that believes San Anselmo to be the perfect upscale retail location, and Pine Street Clinic, which is considering adding medical cannabis services.
The same thing that thus far has kept Wall Street, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma at bay gives locals pause. Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug where Uncle Sam is concerned and U.S. Attorney General and part-time-Lawn Gnome Jeff Sessions has frequently promised to make life hard on those who flaunt the flower. Amp that up with the Trump administrations threats to cut off Justice Department funding for law enforcement and pulling immigration enforcement from California, and organizations like the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce won’t take a position on whether pot might be good for the town’s economic profile.

Can you fight city hall?

Branded Boutique is a women’s clothing store in downtown Mill Valley that like other merchants fights for foot traffic and attention. The business owner, Kannyn January thought her business needed a fresh coat of paint, literally. So she picked out a color called “Hawaiian Vacation,” kind of a turquoise, and changed the store’s color.

The good news is that the paint job got her store more attention; the bad news is not all attention is good.

Mill Valley, like other cities and bergs in Marin has a pretty strict interpretation of what is good design for businesses in both the downtown as well as other areas. And Mill Valley favors quieter colors, “muted earth tones.”

Longtime Marin residents and observers can tell you that Mill Valley’s attention to detail and degree of control over its planning process is legendary. And while that control is rooted in wanting to do the right thing, it can border on manic. A number of years ago while an editor at a local newspaper; I watched a blue-ribbon committee toil for 18 months to create a workable definition of what a “resident serving business” was.

And to be sure, Mill Valley is not the only city wearing underwear a couple sizes too small. San Rafael went a few rounds with the now deceased Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Co. after its owners painted the joint a bright hue inspired by the national flag of Brazil. And one need look no further than the much beloved Sol Food, the Mission City’s eatery serving up Puerto Rican faire, to see a successful business with a lively tint.

While Branded’s battle with the city of Mill Valley is undecided at this writing, it should be noted that its owner reports that sales are up 30%.

Your Marin moment

Politically, Marin is a pretty tame locale. There isn’t that much acrimony over elections or those holding office. But lately, there is no shortage of talk about rats at the Civic Center.

More specifically, the Civic Center Café, the restaurant that serves the famed Frank Lloyd Wright- designed county seat, has been shut down due to a vermin infestation. The cafeteria is, of course, owned by the county and leased to the Epicurean Group, which serves food to those working in the government building as well as visitors.

Ironically, it was the county health inspectors who shut down the café after finding evidence that county employees weren’t the only frequent visitors to the restaurant. While the Epicurean Group responsible for the café’s hygiene, the county is responsible for keeping the building rat-free.

Bill Meagher is a contributing editor for NorthBay biz and lives in San Rafael. He is also an associate editor for The Deal and TheStreet, national financial news outlets headquartered on Wall Street. He can be reached with news tips, comments and charges of fake news at




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