|The Marin Alliance medical marijuana dispensary attracts patients from around the county (Light photo by Micah Maidenberg).
||A minty scent hangs in the air of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuanas Fairfax office, unmistakable to anyone who ever saw the Grateful Dead live or has walked down Haight-Ashbury Street. Reggae music plays softly over hidden speakers as Lynette Shaw, the proprietor of Marins sole marijuana dispensary, leads a tour of the office, a small facility with two couches up front and two offices in the rear. Posters on the wall show marijuana plants and a hand holding a peace pipe. The dispensary is located in a brown, wooden building just west of Fairfaxs downtown.
The tour is cut short because patients have arrived to purchase their weekly medicine. Confidentiality is important to the Marin Alliance, as conflicting state and federal laws about medical marijuana make the dispensarys future tenuous.
Outside, the 53-year-old Shaw, wearing Wayfarer-style sunglasses, tie-dyed cotton sweats and a t-shirt, her bushy brown hair covering her ears, says her shop in Fairfax is merely an acolyte of the mothership.
The mothership was Dennis Perons famous pot club in San Francisco at Church and Market Streets, the one that spawned marijuana dispensaries across California, Shaw explains.
A man who looked as if he was in his thirties, wearing mirrored sunglasses, shorts and sandals walks up the wheelchair ramp outside of the office.
Do you know where the dispensary is? he asks Shaw.
Do you have your card? she shoots back, albeit in a friendly way.
He does, and shows it to her.
Yeah. Were a non-smoking club, Shaw says, gesturing to the door behind her.
Thats cool, the man says. Hey, do you know Bennett? Hes a grower.
Shaw says she does not know Bennett, the grower, and the man smiles, nods good-bye and walks away to pick up his prescription.
These people were suffering, Shaw says. How could you put them in jail?
A former resident of Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Marshall and Bolinas (I just floated around West Marin, she says), Shaw smokes one or two marijuana joints a day to deal with chronic pain. She first came to Marin after the death of John Belushi caused her mental anguish, even a suicide attempt. Shaw claims she was set to become Bluesetta, the long-lost sister to John Belushis character in the Blues Brother film and music franchise. The name is tattooed, in blue, on her left hand.
Shaw is a busy woman. She is opening a business in Fairfax with the tentative name of Bluesettas Jazz Juice Joint, consulting on marijuana club regulation in Los Angeles and ensuring things run smoothly at the Marin Alliance office. She is also a volunteer probation officer, a former Libertarian candidate for Lieutenant Governor in the 2006 race (142,851 votes), a blues musician and Reverend in the Religion of Jesus Church, a THC-friendly ministry active in California and Hawaii.
They said to me, youre a saint! They asked me to represent the marijuana-friendly Christian ministry, Shaw says of her religious activities.
I can marry people in California and Hawaii. And take confession, she notes. West Marin dispensary?
There had been rumors going around that a medical marijuana dispensary was going to open in West Marin, but Shaw had not heard them, as presumably the doyenne of medical pot in Marin County would. She said she does not see many patients from West Marin anymore, as most of them now grow their own supply.
Shaw was skeptical another dispensary would be able to open anywhere in Marin, saying it was the special business license she has from the town of Fairfax that allowed her to open.
A lot of people want to open in West Marin, she said. Its probably a grower, who wants to get my clients.
Shaw said after she secured her license to operate, greedy growers who wanted to take the license threatened her with violence. Owning such a license could allow a grower to profit by selling his crop exclusively. Other growers took a different tack, and attempted to force Shaw to buy exclusively from their supply.
I think that regulation is the key. It gets the jokers and unsavory types out, she said.
Fairfax licenses Shaws dispensary through a non-transferable permit that includes 84 regulations about how the shop can operate. The organizations books are audited, and their hours are contingent on nearby use of a Little League baseball diamond. On a recent Saturday, the club closed during the day because of the ball games. It opened again at 6 p.m.
Shaw says 800 people purchase medicinal marijuana from the Marin Alliance each month. Out of that pool, 30 people grow extra pot all organic, Shaw insists in home gardens to sell it to the club.
The club offers marijuana to patients in many forms, including chocolate candy, peanut butter, oils, ice cream, ginger cookies and ginger breads, mint cookies, cookies called Flying Saucers, peanut butter cups, caramel candy bars, capsules and energy drinks, including a lemonade flavor.
The club also offers marijuana in dried plant form. The most expensive dried marijuana sold by the Marin Alliance dispensary costs $60 for one-eighth of an ounce of Sensi Skunk, Train Wreck or White Widow.
A strain called Sweet Tooth costs $55 for an eighth, while Sativa Gold goes for $35. An eighth of Early Thai costs just $15.
In West Marin, one-eighth an ounce of marijuana costs roughly $50, sources said.
The legal basis
55 percent of voters in the 1996 election supported Proposition 215. The ballot initiative legalized possession of marijuana by patients and certain caregivers. Buds, Flying Saucers and pot-infused lemonades could now be legally possessed, prescribed and used.
In 2003, legislators passed Senate Bill 420 to further clarify who was eligible to use medical marijuana. SB 420 mandated the state offer identification cards, available through county health departments, for patients using medical marijuana. In Marin County, the program superseded a local identification card.
The cards are becoming more expensive across the state, and Marin County is no exception. At their meeting on March 27, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to make the Marin County cards cost $56.50 per card for Medi-Cal beneficiaries and $113 per card for everyone else. The previous rates were $30 and $60.
Administrative costs for the cards are split between the state and counties. The increase in costs came on the heels of a CDHS decision to increase rates on the state end to $33.00 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries and $66.00 for others.
In a memorandum to the Board of Supervisors, Larry Meredith, the director of the county Department of Health and Human Services wrote that the substantial increase in the State fees is due to the States recalculation of its administrative costs, as well as due to the fact that only 24 counties issue Medical Marijuana ID cards thus spreading costs over fewer counties.
Shaw said she supports the increase. They only went up a little bit. Its not very much for once a year. It costs $7,500 for a defense lawyer, she said with a laugh.
The Fairfax Chief of Police said the department has had few problems with the Marin Alliance dispensary. Ken Hughes remembered a few complaints of people smoking on site and one burglary but otherwise said Shaw ran a tight operation.
We havent had any huge issues with it, Hughes said, noting the group is in compliance with state law.
With Marins only dispensary located in Fairfax, Hughes said his department has developed protocols for officers when they find marijuana on a person. A grandmother, for example, suffering from cancer who has her state-issued card in pocket and is in possession of six plants or less, or an ounce or two of dried marijuana, would not be charged or cited. The officers would not confiscate her pot.
If a person caught with pot does not have a card or other proof of a doctors prescription, Hughes department will investigate, and possibly issue a citation. The office has the discretion to confiscate what they find, and can always open a broader investigation.
If theyre transporting 14 pounds of pot, thats probably going to be an issue, he said.
Lieutenant Scott Anderson, of the Marin County Sheriffs Office, said his officers find people in possession of marijuana once or twice a month.
If theyre in possession of a valid medical marijuana card and there is no indication theyre selling, then its for personal use, Anderson said.
Shaws longtime patients are grateful for her advocacy. On a recent day, Dave Loy was hanging round the dispensary, helping to clear the future home of Bluesettas Jazz Juice Joint.
In 1983, Loy was driving a motorcycle when he careened into a parked car, flew 300 feet in the air, and landed on his head. He went into a coma for three and a half months, coming out of it with pain throughout his body.
I heard about this club, and I thought, why would I want the cops to know? said Loy, a Mill Valley resident. I learned the state says its OK. Its just the feds who say its not.
Loy said marijuana has allowed him to live somewhat normally after his accident, though he is still unable to work full time. Loy said when he returned home he would need a puff after helping clear boxes out of the future juice bar.
Lynette is a queen, he said. Lynette is a queen mother.