County of Marin - News Releases - Medical Cannabis Ordinance

For Immediate Release
December 08, 2015

Medical Cannabis Dispensary Ordinance Adopted

Process for licensing approved by Board of Supervisors

San Rafael, CA – Marin County has approved its first local ordinance to allow limited licensing of medical cannabis dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county. The first licenses are expected to be issued by summer 2016.

Medical cannabis advocates begin to rejoice as Community Development Agency Assistant Director smiles in the foreground.Medical cannabis dispensary supporters celebrate the Board vote behind Community Development Agency Assistant Director Tom Lai (foreground).

After a 45-minute hearing, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously December 8 to adopt an ordinance that would allow the licensing of up to four dispensaries – no more than two in the highly populated Highway 101 corridor in eastern Marin and no more than two in the more rural central and western parts of the county.

The Community Development Agency (CDA) worked with a Board subcommittee consistent of Supervisors Judy Arnold and Damon Connolly to revise the draft ordinance, and Tuesday’s vote culminated an extensive review period. The final approved ordinance is consistent with the state’s Compassionate Use Act and Medical Cannabis Program, and will be available on the County website soon.

Cannabis dispensaries have been prohibited in unincorporated Marin, and none are open or permitted in any of the county’s towns or cities. The 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. About a dozen people spoke before the Supervisors on Tuesday, most in favor of the ordinance. Those in attendance broke into an ovation after the Board’s vote and to thank County staff members who worked on the ordinance language.

CDA Assistant Director Tom Lai said there are 184 eligible sites in commercially zoned unincorporated areas – 50 in urbanized Highway 101 corridor and 134 in more rural West Marin. Lai said he would work with the Board subcommittee on an ordinance implementation program that would include a fee schedule and criteria for the selection of dispensaries. After criteria are brought back to the Board in early 2016, applications would be accepted as soon as late spring 2016 and licenses would be issued by summer 2016.

Among the stipulations of the ordinance is a restriction that a licensed dispensary would have to be least 800 feet from K-12 schools, public parks, smoke shops, and other cannabis dispensaries.

The County expects that all costs of the program to be borne by the dispensaries through 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