Marin towns remain cautious about cannabis businesses
Aneesh Nair | Published January 23, 2020 07:19:01 AM | Industry

Marin towns remain cautious about cannabis businesses

CannabisMonster - Marin’s cities continue to approach the sale of recreational marijuana with political caution.

It is as if they are afraid, despite local voters’ strong endorsement of Proposition 64 — the legalization of recreational cannabis. This careful approach taken by local officials is a far cry from rolling out the red carpet for pot retailers.

That cautionary approach also has put a damper on retailers’ interest in the risk to pay expensive planning fees without a solid promise that they will win local approval and open their doors to business.

In San Anselmo, members of the Town Council have hit the brakes on plans to conduct a town poll to determine local support for lifting the town’s ban on recreational cannabis. Leaders of the push say it’s clear to them that San Anselmo residents don’t want marijuana outlets in their town.

On the 2016 ballot, 73.6% of San Anselmo’s voters supported passage of Proposition 64, but a majority of the council appears convinced that those voters meant they wanted cannabis decriminalized — not that they wanted local dispensaries.

Council members, in San Anselmo and in other Marin cities, have heard vocal opposition to local sale of marijuana from parents and activists worried that storefront operations will pave the way to more drug use and abuse by local teens.

Weighing that concern with local voters’ strong support for Proposition 64 has been tricky for elected officials on local councils and the county Board of Supervisors.

In Fairfax, where a medical pot dispensary has operated without incident for more than two decades, the town recently invited applications for another dispensary, a retail operation that would sell medicinal marijuana and have a delivery service for recreational pot.

Interestingly, one of the members of the team filing the application is Matt Brown, who recently retired from the San Anselmo council, on which he had urged the town to consider opening its doors to such a business opportunity.

It also was surprising that this proposal was the only one the town received after deciding that it would allow a second cannabis dispensary.

Fairfax’s consideration of a second pot business is a cautionary wait-and-see nod to 77.5% of the town’s voters who backed Proposition 64.

The proposal is from a Los Angeles-based cannabis company, Element 7, which has won similar approvals in several other California cities.

The proposal required a $2,000 application fee to cover the cost of the town’s planning process, plus a 20% surcharge for administrative overhead.

The town has already adopted strict rules, forbidding dispensaries from locating within 600 feet of schools and within 300 feet of preschools, daycare centers and tutoring businesses.

But winning local approval has not been a sure thing across Marin, where opponents to having retail operations in their towns have drowned out the clear results of Proposition 64.

More California cities are allowing recreational operations and there’s been a push to reduce some of their state-imposed front-end costs to encourage their growth and growth of the tax revenue they promise to generate.

But locally, the legal sale of marijuana has mostly received a chilly welcome, mostly bans and severe limits.

That might thaw as businesses that have opened elsewhere and the limited number of retailers allowed here prove they can be run trouble-free, no worse than the local liquor store.

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