County of Marin - News Releases - Medical Cannabis Program Approved

For Immediate Release
May 04, 2016

Medical Cannabis Rules, Fees Approved

Supervisors to allow up to four dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Marin

San Rafael, CA – A proposed medical cannabis dispensary program received unanimous support from the Marin County Board of Supervisors on May 3, clearing the way for prospective business owners to start submitting applications by July.

Assistant Community Development Agency Director Tom Lai (right) speaks with County attorney David Zaltsman about the medical cannabis program.Assistant Community Development Agency Director Tom Lai (right) speaks with County attorney David Zaltsman about the medical cannabis program.

In a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes, the Supervisors approved a program created by the Community Development Agency (CDA), the County Counsel’s Office and a Board subcommittee of Supervisor Judy Arnold and Supervisor Damon Connolly. Assistant CDA Director Tom Lai said the program was patterned after one adopted in Berkeley and includes the publication of an application guide, an application form and a fee schedule.<.p>

The approval process is expected to take four to eight months depending on factors such as the quality and comprehensiveness of the application and public input. An application filing period would start in July and close in August, followed by CDA staff review of applications in September and October. A new medical cannabis advisory committee (yet to be convened) would review applications in November, then present recommendations to County Administrator Matthew Hymel in December or early 2017.

Several members of Board expressed interest in favoring applications from Marin County business owners over those from outside Marin, but the final action did not include a one-year requirement. Applicants will be asked to address whether their proposed dispensary will have more than 50 percent ownership interest by a Marin resident and whether reduced prices will be offered to low-income patients and military veterans who live in Marin.

“I strongly support regulation of permits for residents who have lived in the county for a year or more,” Board President Steve Kinsey said. Arnold added, “I agree that we should have preference given to Marin applicants.”

Under the ordinance approved in December 2015, the County will allow no more than two dispensaries 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. Last week, CDA mailed approximately 4,000 public notices to parcel owners with property within 1,000 feet of an eligible dispensary site and published the notice in several local newspapers.

“Hopefully we have achieved the right balance to provide high-caliber operations to deliver safe and accessible medicine for patients who need it,” Connolly said. “What we have right now is the wild west, with delivery services unregulated. … Quite likely this is going to be an organic process, no pun intended, but we have an effective starting point.”

The fee schedule is intended to ensure that the cost of creating and implementing the licensing program is covered by applicant fees. A fee of $6,000 is proposed for the County’s review of a license application.  Dispensaries that are awarded a license will be required to pay an annual monitoring deposit of $12,000. The fees are designed to cover the costs of additional staff or contractor assistance so there is no impact to the County’s General Fund.

The ordinance is consistent with the state’s Compassionate Use Act and Medical Cannabis Identification Card Program. A licensed dispensary would have to be least 800 feet from schools, public parks, smoke shops, and other cannabis dispensaries to qualify for a permit. The Supervisors acknowledged that rules and regulations could change locally if California adopts a recreational cannabis laws in the coming months or years.

“Actually I think our timing is really good,” Connolly said. “The state just passed comprehensive regulations that will go into effect fully in January 2018.”

Cannabis dispensaries previously had 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.

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.

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