Fairfax officials struggling to set cannabis rules – The Mercury News

Fairfax officials tabled a vote on a cannabis ordinance again this week, as Town Council members continue to spar over “buffer zone” regulations meant to protect youths.

The council voted 3-2 on Wednesday, with Barbara Coler and Peter Lacques dissenting, to adjust the buffer zone requirements of the ordinance for storefront medical cannabis dispensaries around preschools, daycare facilities and tutoring centers.

The proposed ordinance would broaden existing laws that regulate medical cannabis businesses to allow adult-use cannabis delivery, among other changes. After 18 public meetings discussing the topic, Coler, the mayor, said it’s time to get town regulations in the books.

“We’re running out of time,” Coler said, noting that new cannabis businesses are prohibited under a moratorium expiring Oct. 31. If the council doesn’t adopt its own rules by then, “state law prevails.”

The moratorium was enacted in 2017 and extended last year to give town officials time put together rules for cannabis businesses that want to operate in town.

The proposed ordinance would allow up to two cannabis dispensaries. However, recreational outlets — also called adult-use dispensaries — would have to be delivery-only operations. Medical dispensaries would be allowed to have a storefront, but they would need to require that patrons provide a doctor’s recommendation to enter and purchase product.

With the proper town and state licenses, medical storefront businesses would be allowed to deliver recreational cannabis to residents who are 21 and older, under the ordinance. Coler and Lacques previously supported allowing adult-use cannabis storefronts, but the council majority disagreed.

In a replay of last month’s meeting, the council members were hung up Wednesday on buffer zones, which dictate how far a storefront dispensary or a delivery service must be from facilities where youths congregate.

Councilwoman Renee Goddard proposed that medical storefront dispensaries must be a minimum of 300 feet from tutoring centers, daycare centers and preschools and 600 feet from schools and youth centers. Delivery-only retailers must meet a 250-foot buffer from schools and youth centers.

Buffer zones around storefront dispensaries are proposed to be more restrictive because of the expected foot traffic entering the business.

“We are always looking for a balance when there are different sides to an issue,” Goddard said. “I feel as though looking at buffer zone distances was the way to do it. It’s a compromise that creates ample space between the businesses and where youth actually congregate.”

The council supported prohibitions on cannabis events, microbusinesses, manufacturing, distribution, commercial cultivation and testing laboratories.

In Fairfax, 77.6% of voters supported Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis sales to adults 21 and older.

The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which opened in 1997, is the only dispensary in town. Last year, the council approved an ordinance that allowed the Marin Alliance to deliver recreational cannabis to residents 21 and older. The dispensary hasn’t yet obtained the proper state licensing to do so.

Town Manager Garrett Toy said some definitions will have to be redefined in the ordinance that is brought to the table at the Aug. 7 meeting, when the council is expected to adopt the rules on a first reading.

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