Marin County Board of Supervisors Upholds Denial of Medical Cannabis Licenses

Revised ordinance to be considered in coming months

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Board of Supervisors upheld a decision by the County Administrator and denied appeals to seven prospective applicants who wanted to open medical cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Marin.

The Board’s decision May 23 followed an April 10 decision by County Administrator Matthew Hymel not to approve any applications following an extensive review of vendors and site locations by the Community Development Agency (CDA) staff. Eight of 10 applicants appealed the decision; one of the applicants withdrew its appeal Monday, May 22.

“Unfortunately, this process did not find the right match of vendor and site, but we are committed to working with our community to have safe access to medical cannabis for our residents,” said Board President Judy Arnold. “This has been a tremendous learning experience for us.”

The Board requested that that staff work with the Board in the coming months to consider alternative approaches to achieve a workable licensing solution. Staff recommended two options for further consideration: a revised approach that separates the vendor and site decision, or a delivery-based model that would mitigate many of the concerns expressed by the community.

The Board will have its medical cannabis subcommittee, comprised of Arnold and Supervisor Damon Connolly, work with staff to create new language in the County’s medical cannabis ordinance. Tom Lai, CDA Assistant Director, said his department will strive to return to the Board by the end of the summer and with a goal of issuing licenses by the end of the calendar year.

“The Board’s direction helps focus our efforts to retool the medical cannabis dispensary program and work with stakeholders and interested residents to develop amendments,” Lai said.

Of the 10 applications filed during the application period last fall, eight were in the Highway 101 corridor zone and two were in the Central/West Marin zone. The 101 corridor applications included three in the Black Point area east of the Novato city limits, one in Santa Venetia near the San Rafael city limits, and four in the Tam Shoreline area between Mill Valley and Sausalito. The Central/West Marin applications included one in San Geronimo Valley and one in Marshall.

Although cannabis is considered an illegal drug by the federal government, Proposition 215 ensures that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes upon receiving a recommendation from a physician. The County’s ordinance is consistent with the state’s Compassionate Use Act and Medical Cannabis Program. A licensed dispensary would have to be least 800 feet from schools, public parks, smoke shops, and other cannabis dispensaries to qualify for a license.

California’s State Bureau of Marijuana Control will implement its licensing program in 2018, and licenses for medical cannabis businesses will be issued if local approval has been granted. New state regulations will permit delivery-based dispensaries after January 1, 2018. Medical cannabis dispensaries remain prohibited in unincorporated Marin (the town of Fairfax recently allowed a longstanding dispensary to reopen under a prior use permit). The County ordinance establishes a regulatory framework to license nonprofit patient collectives to meet the medical needs of local patients, many of whom have voiced the need for local dispensaries before the Board of Supervisors.

The County medical cannabis program does not address the use or sale of recreational cannabis. California voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016 that allows for the sale, regulation, taxation, growth and transportation of cannabis for recreational use.  Under an ordinance passed by the Board in February 2017, recreational cannabis businesses are not permitted anywhere in the unincorporated areas of Marin. 

Sign up to receive emailed County updates on CDA’s Medical Cannabis Program webpage.

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6 thoughts on “Marin County Board of Supervisors Upholds Denial of Medical Cannabis Licenses

  1. This is ridiculous. The people of Marin voted overwhelmingly for both medical and recreational cannabis. Clearly there are many people who use cannabis and would like to be legal. Ten applications were filed for compassionate medical dispensaries (not recreational), and not one could be approved? I don’t understand what the objections are. Would you object to a doctor’s or dentist’s office? The County should issue these permits immediately and be ready to start issuing recreational permits as soon as they’re legal on 1 January.

  2. Dear BOS of Marin,
    This is the worst decision ever made. Marin stands to reap financial benefits from the tax revenue from Cannabis and given that we stand to loose many funding steams in the upcoming budget cycle to ignore this is a detriment to the people of Marin County. I agree that thought and planning needs to go into where these shops are located but to issue a blanket denial for all applicants is ridiculous. If these were liquor stores would you have disapproved these permits? Probably not and alcohol has been proven to be far more deadly to not only teens, but society in general. To think that locating a pot shop where a teen might find it and become “addicted” is beyond ridiculous, either you have never known a teenager or you need to take your head out of the sand. If a teenager wants to get high or drunk they will regardless of where these shops are located. Or actually even if they are never opened at all. So get with the will of the majority of the voters of not only Marin, but the entire state and act responsibly and sensibly around this issue. Of course there is always the next election.

  3. Get out of the stone age and pull your heads out of your butts.
    The Majority of TAX payers voted for this to be legal.
    It’s very obvious you are stone walling and the supreme court is going to override your stupidity.
    In the meantime, we do not appreciate being represented by fools ignoring the will of the people.
    People smoke this stuff with or without YOUR approval so get over your selves and DO NOT expect to be re-elected.
    Regulating brings in revenue to our county.
    If you think you are stopping the use of marijuana by blocking legal distribution you are so far removed from reality you have no business being an elected official.
    I dont care about, use, or need this substance, but I DO care about the will of the people and YOU not listening.

    1. Unfortunately people did not read the so called ‘fine print’ on the proposition – which puts officials like this in power seat to in effect THWART that aspect in respect of which everyone thought they were voting YES for!!

  4. I did read the fine print and thought it a good idea to have the details of licensing and siting to be determined by local officials who know the area and their constituency – much better than having state officials controlling it. I did expect that our local supes and town councils would responsibly administer the stated desires of the voters – that medical and recreational cannabis be made safely and easily accessible to adults. I also thought they’d jump on the idea of all that tax revenue. A town the size of San Anselmo in Colorado was receiving an average of $9,000 per month as of Dec 2015 (the last data available online). Total cannabis revenue in Colorado has doubled each of the last two years, so it may be closer to $25,000 per month, free money, for the town. Our town budget is already balanced, but an extra $300K every year would go a long way to getting a lot of projects done.

    1. Yes you make a good point. Its as if the influence of a handful of residents supercedes the desire of thousands of voters. Or is it that when push comes to shove Marin people are not as truly “liberal” as they purport to be?

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