To say that Novato and other Marin cities have been careful about opening their doors to cannabis companies is an understatement.
Novato carefully orientates itself on the waters of this growing industry.
City Hall’s latest move to reconsider the tough requirements the city council has placed on the location of these companies is yet another move that reflects Novato’s slow approach to implementing marijuana legalization, approved by voters nearly five years ago became.
The most recent proposed move would be to reduce the city-imposed 600-foot requirement for testing laboratories and segregate cannabis companies from schools, youth centers, or other places that offer recreational or social activities for minors.
A proposal is currently being considered that would reduce this limit to 300 feet for laboratories.
The council is also considering mandating a 600-foot separation for cannabis delivery companies from residential areas.
Across Novato, such restrictions severely limit the possible locations for cannabis companies, so they are likely only in Novato’s Bel Marin Keys Industrial Park or very few other locations that are not close to homes or schools.
Most of Novato’s business parks are located near residential areas.
The need for the neighborhood clause stems from a proposal that was considered earlier this year when a delivery company – with no in-store retail sales – applied for city approval to set up a store in San Marin. The plan met with resistance from neighbors, who said such an operation was unsuitable for their area of residence and too close to the local high school and a swimming and tennis club.
The proposal met the city’s clearance requirements from schools and youth centers, but due to opposition, the local-owned company postponed the proposal.
The Council tries to avoid further such dust formation.
In 2016, nearly 66% of Novato’s voters – almost a two-thirds majority – voted in favor of Proposition 64, the legalization of marijuana for adult use.
District support for Proposition 64 was 69%.
As we saw in Marin, where similar majorities were recorded, that doesn’t mean local jurisdictions rolled out the red carpet for cannabis companies. It was exactly the opposite, most of the time it responded with moratoriums and strict restrictions on both the number and the places allowed.
For some communities, it is a wait and see approach to see how other communities react to Proposal 64 and whether these strategies become magnets to crime and drug use, or whether cannabis companies prove to be a sure boon to the local economy.
Meanwhile, proposals to open cannabis stores, for the most part, generate the same kind of local opposition as in San Marin.
In Sausalito, owners of a proposed cannabis business are bringing the issue back to voters, asking for their consent to open a local pharmacy and bypass the city council.
It is certainly more harmless than a pure delivery business to allow test laboratories to set up a shop. In fact, such a medical cannabis laboratory has been in operation in Novato for five years.
The permit expires in December and the city’s current 600-foot kickback rule would force them to find another location. However, the council is building sensible exemptions for testing laboratories due to their small, nondescript farms and the small amount of cannabis they keep on-site.
Nearly five years after California voters approved the legal use and sale of cannabis, local leaders continue to grapple with the issue. Their reluctance is politically boosted by the fact that when considering proposals to open cannabis stores in the city, the local opposition usually drowns out supporters.
Until the political bias changes – or cannabis proponents return to the election – the view of the Marin communities on Proposal 64 will continue to be cautious, if not decidedly reserved.