Novato cannabis entrepreneurs retreat after public outcry

A Novato couple who proposed a cannabis delivery business in the San Marin neighborhood has pulled their application with the city after hundreds of residents raised opposition.

Longtime residents Jennifer Durham and Justin Pool had aimed to base their business, Highway 420, at 205 San Marin Drive. The operation was among four cannabis business applicants that received conditional approval last month from the City Council.

“They will search for a new location to be considered by the City Council at a later date,” Mayor Pat Eklund said at the council’s meeting on Tuesday.

Attempts to contact Durham and Pool were unsuccessful.

While the business proposal and location complied with the city’s cannabis ordinance, many San Marin residents opposed the location for reasons such as its proximity to San Marin High School, potential traffic issues and outright opposition to cannabis legalization. A petition calling for the council to reverse its approval received more than 1,000 signatures.

Residents raised concerns that students would somehow be able to more easily obtain marijuana if the business was nearby. The city prohibits storefront sales of cannabis and the delivery business would not allow public access to its building. Cannabis cannot be legally sold to anyone under 21 years old in California.

“San Marin is a family neighborhood and families with children and high school students live and walk by this site daily,” Novato resident Dalit Muzzarelli wrote to the council. “It would be a temptation for young people to try to access as well.”

The proposed Highway 420 site is nearly a mile away from the high school, well exceeding the city’s requirements of a 600-foot setback from schools and other areas where youths gather.

In an email to the council, Jennifer Harwood said she lives next to the proposed site. While she said she doesn’t oppose cannabis in general, she was concerned the business could attract thieves to the area. Many others expressed similar concerns.

“Why not consider an industrial park, like Ignacio or one of the buildings off of Highway 101 near the San Marin/Atherton exit?” Harwood wrote. “This seems a safer distance from all rural, home-based areas.”

Novato police Chief Matthew McCaffrey has said that crime related to cannabis businesses is often proportionate to the amount of crime that already exists in those areas.

“Novato is a very safe community. We have a very low crime rate and I don’t see these types of businesses affecting that,” McCaffrey told the council in January.

Pool and Durham won’t have to start over their application from scratch, according to Novato Community Development Director Vicki Parker. However, the new location will still need to be reviewed by staff, publicly noticed and be vetted at another council hearing before it can be approved, she said.

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