Marijuana use has always been an issue of heated political debate. Whether for recreational or medicinal use, staunch opponents fight he presence of marijuana just as vehemently as proponents fight its absence. California – with its diverse population and wide variety of political leanings – has a long list of cities and counties that are friendly to cannabis businesses, and just as many which fight to keep such businesses out altogether. These vastly different market climates can mean the difference between life and death for a business.
The Conundrum of Marin County
In the liberal cannabis climate of Northern California, Marin County is a conservative outlier on marijuana issues. Sonoma County has an estimated twelve thousand residents working in the cannabis industry. Nearby Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Counties form an area quickly becoming known as the “Emerald Triangle” for its vast marijuana farms. In contrast, every city and town council in Marin County (other than Fairfax) has either taken public positions against marijuana dispensaries or banned them altogether. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that this lead Marin County officials to recently reject ten dispensary applications. The County also received two separate anti-dispensary petitions with hundreds of signatures. This is a confusing message from a county which approved the 2016 recreational use referendum by seventy percent.
One dispensary owner in Marin County has become a target of federal efforts. Lynette Shaw – known as the “Godmother of Medical Marijuana” – made a name for herself in the cannabis industry in the 1980s by supplying Hollywood stars such as John Belushi. According to the Huffington Post, her dispensary was targeted by federal investigators and prosecutors, and eventually shut down in 2011. The assigned U.S. Attorney even made plans to foreclose on Shaw’s landlord. Despite the fact that Shaw was never convicted, her dispensary remained closed until 2017.
And in perhaps the most aggressive statement of sentiment, the Marin County Board of Supervisors has banned non-medical cannabis business activities in unincorporated areas of Marin County. The North Bay Business Journal reports that the ban will preserve the County’s ability to control marijuana throughout the uncertainty of changing recreational use regulations. The County Administrator, Matthew Hymel, is also recommending that only medical marijuana delivery businesses should be licensed by Marin County. According to ABC7, Hymel is reacting to residents’ concerns about marijuana dispensaries being located near their houses, which were raised at public hearings on the non-medical business ban.
Cannabis businesses face many hurdles in achieving financial success in Marin County. The simple matters of getting a business license and finding a legal shop location could be insurmountable obstacles for entrepreneurs. Moreover, public sentiment in Marin County is broadly against marijuana – recreational or medicinal. Overcoming hostility and finding successful marketing strategies will also be serious challenges for cannabis business owners in Marin County. Yet even in unfriendly business or political climates, marijuana growers and distributors can find financial success. With sound the business planning services of experienced cannabis lawyers, business owners can be prepared to thrive in California’s cannabis industry.
The Los Angeles Cannabis Law Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Marijuana in Pot Phobic Marin County, California, June 26, 2017 by Jonah Raskin, The Huffington Post
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Marijuana Dispensary Owners File Lawsuit Against Police for Raid, February 25, 2015, by Cannabis Law Group