Corte Madera residents and officials last week discussed the possibility of allowing cannabis businesses — including dispensaries, cultivation facilities, testing labs and manufacturing plants — to operate in town.
The public workshop at the Corte Madera Town Hall Wednesday didn’t reveal a consensus of opinion among residents about whether those businesses should be permitted, Senior Planner Phil Doyle said Wednesday. But that wasn’t the point.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” he said.
Town planners are soliciting input to help craft an ordinance that could regulate cannabis businesses and personal cultivation in Corte Madera. Another workshop on the topic is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Town Hall, 300 Tamalpais Drive, and residents are asked to complete a survey available through the town’s website.
“Your input is intended to guide your city decision-makers so they can make an ordinance that the people want,” said Sean Kennings, a planning consultant the town hired to help create the cannabis regulations.
Some community members Wednesday said they hope Corte Madera will continue to ban marijuana businesses. The town currently has a moratorium on pot-related enterprises that was extended late last month for up to a year. Town planners say they hope to have regulations in place before the temporary ban expires.
Corte Madera’s current laws allow marijuana delivery services to conduct business in the community, but those services cannot be headquartered within the town’s boundaries. Under voter-approved state law, municipalities can’t forbid homeowners from growing up to six marijuana plants indoors, but jurisdictions can decide whether to allow outdoor or commercial cultivation, along with other businesses.
Emily Tejani, a Corte Madera resident and a physician specializing in adolescent psychiatry who practices in the town, said she was concerned the local presence of legal marijuana operations could result in social normalization of the plant, which she fears could result in an increase in underage use.
“So much of the value of our town … has to do with this being a safe place to raise kids and to live,” she said.
Linda Henn, a Kentfield resident and a project coordinator for the Coalition Connection — a group that works to reduce underage alcohol and drug use — echoed Tejani’s concern. Henn said she supports patients’ ability to access medical marijuana through delivery services in Corte Madera but is strongly opposed to brick-and-mortar cannabis storefronts.
“We have a crisis in Marin County with youth use of substances,” she said. “We are 50 percent higher than the nation and 50 percent higher than the state of California. Accessibility, normalization and perception of harm are the three biggest reasons our youth use is so high. … The normalization will only increase, and the perception of harm will decrease, if we allow physical storefronts.”
But others said Corte Madera should show compassion toward residents who depend on medical cannabis for health reasons and make access easier for those users.
The only brick-and-mortar cannabis shop in Marin County — Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which exclusively serves patients with recommendations from doctors — is in Fairfax.
Kim Pelham, a Napa resident who formerly operated a medical cannabis dispensary in Corte Madera before the city opted to ban marijuana businesses, said it’s unfair to make medical users who want to shop at a retail store travel to Fairfax in order to purchase cannabis.
“If you had to drive all the way out there for your glass of wine, it would be a whole different story,” Pelham said.
Bonnie Frank, a Corte Madera resident and cancer survivor, said cannabis was the key to her success in beating the illness that threatened her life.
“I’m only here because of cannabis,” Frank said.
Frank said California’s regulations on marijuana dispensaries and other businesses are comprehensive enough to ensure that those enterprises are discreet, secure and safe. Business owners are required to obtain state-issued licenses in addition to local permits in order to operate.