An ordinance allowing up to three not-for-profit medical marijuana facilities in Marin’s unincorporated areas is under consideration by county officials, but it imposes so much red tape that only those who could comply with rigorous restrictions would qualify.
A top Marin medical marijuana attorney called the tentative proposal a step in the right direction, but several entrepreneurs in the medical marijuana “delivery” business called it far too restrictive.
“This is just the county’s way of doing nothing,” because no one would be able to qualify, a San Rafael marijuana purveyor said, speaking on condition his name not be used.
Supervisors Damon Connolly and Judy Arnold issued the marijuana proposal, saying the Board of Supervisors will hold an informal workshop to air public commentary at 1:30 p.m. June 9.
Although no decision will be made at that meeting, “It should be a very interesting process and we look forward to public participation,” Connolly said.
“It establishes a licensing system for dispensaries, a standard,” added Arnold in brief remarks to colleagues about the proposal Tuesday.
Later Connolly added that “the timing is right” and past due for such an ordinance, noting that 20 years after California voters approved it, “we still do not have the tools in Marin County to ensure that medical marijuana is distributed responsibly.”
Connolly said the measure is similar to others across the state and is “intentionally strict, and is designed to provide the county all the tools needed to select the best operator and provide the safest access to patients, while ensuring minimal impact on neighboring communities.”
He said, “We know of many who are interested in applying for a license.”
A “talking points” memo circulated by the county to bring various officials up to speed on the proposal reports: “Currently there is no city or county location where a dispensary could legally exist in Marin County, although state law was passed in 1996 that allows local jurisdictions to provide for locations for medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries.”
Although a number of delivery services with names such as “Better Buds,” “Golden State Flower House,” “Tam Coalition,” “Remedies” and “Delta II Delivery” operate under the radar in the county, retail dispensaries were shut down several years ago by local authorities or, in the case of the pioneering Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, forced to close by federal agencies including the IRS.
A Ross Valley medical marijuana delivery merchant indicated that a ballot issue making recreational marijuana legal is almost certain to pass in California, making the county ordinance meaningless.
The supervisors’ measure does not mention delivery services, but indicates that “patient collectives” that do not operate in a retail capacity are exempt. It does not elaborate.
Scot Candell, a San Rafael attorney whose website says he seeks to “protect patients, to educate the public as well as the courts, and to make sure that every medical marijuana patient has safe access to the cannabis they need,” said that despite restrictions including the number of facilities allowed, the tentative ordinance is a move in the right direction.
“It is not what the final version will look like,” he noted of the draft measure, saying that the county board “will get a consensus from the people who show up that certain things are unworkable.”
The proposal “is at least moving in the right direction,” Candell said. “I’m glad they got started.”
The ordinance would allow one retail facility in each of three zones — North, South, and West Marin — in commercial zones at least 600 feet from schools or youth programs. It does not detail specific locales that might qualify, but Connolly said about 250 parcels meet the criteria.
Licenses would be issued for one year and could be renewed by operators selected by county officials who meet a host of strict criteria, abide by a long list of conditions and limitations including hiring security personnel — and agree to operate without making a profit.
“A dispensary shall not cultivate, distribute or sell medical cannabis for a profit,” the ordinance declares.
In any case, “a dispensary will only dispense to qualified patients or caregivers with current physician’s approval, and the dispensary will obtain and maintain verification from the recommended physician,” the memo notes.
The measure limits the amount of marijuana that can be kept on the premises or sold, bans on-site consumption, outlaws signs containing logos or product information, and imposes extensive requirements for operations including on-site security personnel, camera surveillance, alarm and electronic “buzz-in” entry systems, lighting, floor plan configuration, odor control and site management including minimum staffing levels.
The ordinance aims to minimize impacts on neighbors but adds the operation should be clearly visible to all. “A dispensary shall be in a highly visible location that provides good views of the dispensary entrance, windows and premises from the public street.”
The 16-page ordinance says fees would cover all county costs, but does not indicate how much they would be.
It also is unclear how vendors would meet some of the requirements. “Dispensary operations shall not result in illegal redistribution of medical cannabis,” according to the ordinance.
To read a draft of the proposal, visit: www.marincounty.org/main/marijuana-dispensary-ordinance.