Marin County: The Poster Child for Marijuana NIMBYism?

When Marin County voters were asked to weigh in on pot legalization in 2016, the results weren’t even close. By a 69.75% margin, compared to 56% statewide, Marin County voters opted to end the prohibition on recreational marijuana. Yet today, the county shuns pot at nearly every turn.

Two years ago, supervisors approved an outright ban on cannabis businesses.

“We did a blanket prohibition so that we could get our hands around the industry,” said the county’s cannabis program manager Inge Lundegaard. “How do we regulate it? What do we need to do?”

City after city followed suit.

“Most cities in the area…are prohibition across the board,” Inge Lundegaard added.

The county and the city of San Rafael are now inching towards approving delivery licenses for four cannabis businesses, but those aren’t even for recreational weed. Only medical cannabis services are eligible.

As Leafly explains, “Outdoor cannabis growing is prohibited in the county and its cities, which include Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito and Tiburon. Novato permits two cannabis testing labs. But commercial nurseries, cannabis microbusinesses, manufacturing, distribution aren’t allowed anywhere. Neither are permits for special events with on-site consumption.”

Good ol’ NIMBYism accounts for Marin’s “schizophrenic” attitude on weed (in the words of former Fairfax mayor Lew Tremaine). Residents have no problem with pot, as long as it isn’t interfering with their small-town, picturesque surroundings.

“The unincorporated areas have very limited commercial and industrial spaces, and with community plans in place to protect open space and community character, that limits the potential sites,” said Lundegaard.

Virtually no one in the county wants a person in jail for possessing marijuana, but they don’t want the storefronts, large-scale crops, traffic, and potential for crime either. That’s just not Marin’s style. And for now, style trump's the crop. 

Read more about how Marin County became the poster child for cannabis NIMBYism here