County approves delivery-only medical cannabis ordinance

11/16/2017

After almost three years of attempting to bring medical marijuana to unincorporated Marin, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that will allow for medical cannabis delivery-only retailers in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. At the same hearing, the board also repealed a previous ordinance that had permitted storefront dispensaries and triggered widespread concern from residents over community impacts. “During the storefront medical cannabis hearing, we heard numerous concerns from the public on our approach—neighborhood compatibility, traffic and potential exposure to youth issues,” Supervisor Judy Arnold, one of the two members of the board’s cannabis subcommittee, explained at the first reading of the new ordinance last month. “Based on these concerns, we devised the delivery-only concept and I believe we’ve found a way to address community concerns and still provide patients in Marin County access to medical cannabis.” Under the ordinance, medicinal cannabis delivery retailers will be closed to the public, conducting sales exclusively by delivery, and are required to be 600 feet from schools, playgrounds, daycares and youth centers. The county aims to maintain at least two but no more than four licenses, which would be subject to renewal annually. At hearings regarding the ordinance over the past few months, the primary concern voiced by residents and industry representatives has been over the county’s proposed process for selecting applicants for the licenses. (Many also advocated for more than four licenses.) Inge Lundegaard, Marin’s cannabis program manager, said she and her staff altered the application process so that candidates will be evaluated based on merit from the get-go. There are four phases, beginning with a brief pre-screening process that includes a basic background check. Originally, a lottery followed, to whittle down the number of applicants to four, followed by a site review with the Community Development Agency and, lastly, a merit-based evaluation. Now, the second phase will be the merit-based evaluation that uses a 100-point scale to measure the strength of the business, operating and public benefits plans. Applicants who receive 80 percent or more will advance to a lottery, assuming there are more than four that meet the criteria. The site review will be the very last step, with the logic that this will reduce the number of applicants searching for a site and thereby minimizing community disturbance. Though a few industry representatives still questioned the need for the lottery component at Tuesday’s hearing, the speakers were primarily supportive. Supervisor Damon Connolly, the other member of the cannabis subcommittee, noted the limited number of speakers—there were fewer than 10—and said it was a stark contrast to the packed room at the beginning of the drafting process. This was a testament to the success of the ordinance in meeting community needs, he said. The ordinance addresses the state’s most recent legislation, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which repealed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Ms. Lundegaard said some aspects of the ordinance go above and beyond the state’s laws about a delivery-only retailer, including that deliveries can be made to a residence or business only, that operating hours cannot exceed 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., that no advertising on site or on delivery vehicles is allowed and that non-cannabis foods, such as snacks and drinks, cannot be sold. The application process is expected to get underway in January.