County of Marin - News Releases - Medical Cannabis Ordinance

For Immediate Release
October 16, 2015

Board to Review Draft Medical Cannabis Ordinance

Proposal for licensing dispensaries in Marin goes before Supervisors Oct. 20

San Rafael, CA – Four months after the Marin County Board of Supervisors directed County staff to move forward with plans to prepare a medical cannabis ordinance, the topic is returning to the Board at 1:30 p.m. October 20 with a draft ordinance for unincorporated areas.

Co-authored by subcommittee members Supervisor Judy Arnold and Supervisor Damon Connolly, the draft ordinance was discussed June 9 at a public workshop attended by more than 200 people in the Marin County Civic Center Board Chamber. More than 40 people provided feedback during the meeting’s open time, and all five Supervisors contributed comments about recommended alterations to the draft ordinance. Many in the chamber that day, including Supervisors and members of the public, expressed concerns about the potential locations of dispensaries near places commonly used by children.

“The public discussions have been important so far and we look forward to more input from our residents on October 20,” Arnold said. “We see there’s a need for it, and we’re trying to meet that need in a disciplined way.” 

Connolly added, “There is a lot of interest in the regulation of dispensaries. We have tried hard to get this right. We want this to be a safe and convenient point of access for patients and at the same time protect the community from any unintended consequences.”

Staff members from the County Counsel’s Office and Community Development Agency (CDA) worked the past several months with the Board subcommittee to refine the draft. The second draft was released October 2. 

The ordinance would limit the number of dispensaries to four locations within unincorporated Marin – no more than two in the highly populated Highway 101 corridor and no more than two in the more rural central and western parts of the county. The original proposal was for no more than one dispensary in each of three defined geographic areas roughly representing the southern, northern and western areas.

A medical cannabis ordinance would implement the recently approved California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 9, as well as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215). The newly signed law established a comprehensive state program for regulating all aspects of medical cannabis, from cultivation to distribution, with allowances for cities and counties to establish local standards for dispensaries. The proposed Marin County ordinance would create a path for dispensaries able to receive a County license to be eligible to apply for the new state license when the state's program launches in a few years. There are no County-licensed dispensaries in Marin now. 

The County expects that costs borne through administering a dispensary ordinance and program would be covered by application review and monitoring fees, to be established separately by the Board.

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. Patients and primary caregivers are exempt from criminal liability for possession and cultivation of cannabis. In 2003, the state Legislature adopted the Medical Marijuana Program to clarify the scope of lawful medical cannabis practices. 

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


Tom Lai
Deputy Director
Community Development Agency

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6292
CRS Dial 711

Email: Tom Lai
CDA website