The majority of Corte Madera residents who responded to a recent survey said they’d like to allow cannabis businesses, dispensaries and outdoor grows in the community. But town officials said this week they want to take prohibition of marijuana-related activities as far as state law will allow.
“Having it brought into the community as a fact of life is not something that any of us wanted to allow,” said Peter Chase, chair of the Planning Commission. “The health and safety of the community comes first before all else.”
Planning commissioners at their meeting Tuesday said Corte Madera’s forthcoming cannabis regulations should forbid all types of marijuana businesses, both recreational and medical, and ban outdoor gardens.
That recommendation, which will help town planners craft detailed local laws about marijuana, came after commissioners listened to feedback from residents and discussed the input Corte Madera received during two cannabis workshops held last month, which gave community members their first chances to weigh in on the hotly-contested issue in a public forum.
Commissioners on Tuesday also reviewed the 343 responses to Corte Madera’s community survey, which asked residents a series of questions designed to inform the local regulations. Of those who responded, 82 percent said they were Corte Madera homeowners. Roughly 9,000 residents live in the town.
The survey showed that the majority who responded feel differently from planning commissioners about allowing cannabis in town.
Sixty percent of survey respondents said they voted in 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana under Prop. 64. But a few who said they supported the ballot measure don’t want the plant sold in their town for recreational use. Only 49 percent of respondents said they’d support dispensaries that sell recreational cannabis in Corte Madera, while 63 percent would be okay with medical-only storefronts.
Survey results showed 50 percent of respondents would support other types of cannabis businesses in town — including distribution, manufacturing and testing enterprises — and 59 percent would support those businesses if they dealt exclusively with cannabis for medical use.
While state law allows California residents over 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants indoors in any community with permission from property owners, jurisdictions can decide for themselves whether they’ll allow residents to grow outdoors. In Corte Madera, 63 percent of those surveyed said the town should legalize outdoor cultivation.
Chase said he took the survey results into account, but ultimately based his decision on information he obtained through his own research about negative effects of cannabis, especially on youth.
“The survey is informational, it’s not a vote,” he said. “The townspeople aren’t given the same information that we (on the Planning Commission) have. … If every one of those people who voted in favor of it had received those resources, I’d then say we have a better consideration. But that doesn’t mean we’d still do it, because we’re still in the business of protecting the town.”
Commissioner Robert Bundy, who disagreed with the majority recommendation Tuesday, and said he’d be open to allowing a dispensary and outdoor gardens in town, said he favors the idea of regulation over prohibition as a means to promote safety.
“I think this turned out to be a very personal issue for a number of the Planning Commission members,” he said. “I think all of us got more personally involved in our thoughts on this, rather than really looking at the big picture of what the vote actually was.”
The Town Council, which will make final decisions about the forthcoming regulations, will weigh in on the topic at an upcoming meeting, which hasn’t yet been scheduled, according to Senior Planner Phil Boyle. Community members will have further chances to voice their opinions when the council takes up the issue, Boyle said.
“We didn’t have any preconceived notions that this survey would derive the ordinance,” he said. “It’s not a scientific study, but we did get a lot of responses.”