Measure K was an attempted Power Grab by Corporate Cannabis
The 14-page ballot initiative was drafted in such a manner that ONLY Otter Brands could meet the requirements for a cannabis retail storefront license if the initiative passed. It wasn't an initiative as much as a "business plan by ballot" for the financial benefit of a few people.
The applicant for the Otter Brands initiative would have to meet all these following requirements and more:
Participated in meetings with at least three current or then-current members of the City Council between December 31, 2018, and April 20, 2021.
Participated in community meetings related to operating a cannabis business prior to April 20, 2021.
Provided a detailed draft development agreement to the city following the City Council’s discussion of cannabis development agreements in 2019.
Have an owner who resides in Sausalito and either owns 20% or more of the business or owns more than 1% and is directly involved in the business.
Have one owner who has experience managing, operating or owning a business in the City.
What was NOT in the Measure K initiative
No requirement for a City Permit
No requirement for a City Conditional Use Permit
No City controls
No requirement for distance from residents properties
No limits on youth friendly products beyond the minimum state standards (and as demonstrated by the Cookies brand, the State restrictions are inadequate)
No potency limits or increased tax on THC levels
No restrictions on the sale of flavored vaping products
No requirements for health warnings posted in stores OR handed out to customers
No traffic study required
No efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of cannabis waste and impact on smoke-free air
Who was behind Measure K?
While Ms. Cleary was the Sausalito face of the initiative, Otter Brands and its founder/CEO, Conor Johnston, was the entity and lead partner.
Based on the FPPC required funding disclosure in September 28, 2022, 95% of the funding for Measure K came from out of town. And the remaining 5% is from a part owner who would profit from Measure K passing.
What is Otter Brands?
Otter Brands is a California LLC formed several years ago by Conor Johnston who is part owner of a cannabis store in the Haight called Berner’s On Haight.
Who is Conor Johnston?
William Conor Johnston is part owner of a cannabis store called Berners on Haight in San Francisco. In addition to being an owner of Berner's on Haight, Johnston is also a cannabis consultant (Conor Johnston Consulting), seeking to advise cannabis businesses around the state. Johnston previously divided his time between San Diego and San Francisco, but last year told a reporter he is living in the Pacific Northwest.
In 2018, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Ethics Commission addressed a complaint against Johnston for his failure to register income with the city. In 2020, Johnston was called out for “gaming programs meant to help people of color” when he opened his Berner’s cannabis store in San Francisco.
Now in 2022, Johnston's lawyers sued to have an equity applicant removed from the Sausalito ballot. While Johnston denied this in person to a room of Sausalito business owners and residents at a Sausalito Chamber of Commerce event on October 13th, their “Sausalito Local, Yes on K” Form 460 shows the dollar amount paid to their lawyers for this lawsuit.
Lastly, while Johnston is misleading Sausalito voters to expand his cannabis business here, he is also misleading Laguna Beach residents to expand his business there–and once again using the “local” tagline.
Who is Berner?
Berner, also know as Gilbert Milam, Jr. is the founder of an international cannabis conglomerate worth at least $1 billion (Forbes, August 2022). Berner became famous for his "Girl Scout Cookies" cannabis products, which was later changed to "Cookies" after the threat of a lawsuit by Girl Scouts of America. Berner's is known for marketing tactics geared toward kids with branded products such as “smell proof” backpacks, skateboards, hooded sweatshirts and even teddy bears. Today, Cookie's strains have names like Sticky Buns, Berry Pie, Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton and Snoop Dog. Cookies' products contain up to over 90% THC (the active ingredient that gets users high).
Otter Brands' lawyers sued the sponsors of a Marin City competing ballot measure as well as the Sausalito City Council, City Clerk, and Marin Registrar of Voters. On August 12, 2022, a lawsuit by an Otter Brands ally against the City of Sausalito forced the removal of a ballot measure that would have competed with Measure K.
While Otter Brands claimed to be a friend of the City, they showed that they would muscle their way to get what they want regardless of the cost to the city or residents. The actions by Otter Brands cost Sausalito staff time and legal fees.