Novato cannabis entrepreneurs withdraw after public outcry


A Novato couple who proposed a cannabis delivery business in the San Marin neighborhood filed their application with the city after hundreds of residents resisted.

Long-time residents Jennifer Durham and Justin Pool set a goal of starting their business, Highway 420, on 205 San Marin Drive. The operation was among four applicants for cannabis companies who received conditional approval from the city council last month.

“They will be looking for a new location to be examined by the city council at a later date,” Mayor Pat Eklund said at the city council meeting on Tuesday.

Attempts to contact Durham and Pool were unsuccessful.

While the business proposal and location were in line with the city’s cannabis ordinance, many San Marin residents declined the location for reasons such as proximity to San Marin High School, potential traffic issues, and a total opposition to legalizing cannabis. A petition from asking the council to withdraw its consent received more than 1,000 signatures.

Residents expressed concerns that if the store were nearby, it would be easier for students to get marijuana. The city prohibits the sale of cannabis in stores and the delivery business would not allow public access to their building. Cannabis is not legally allowed to be sold to anyone under the age of 21 in California.

“San Marin is a family district and families with children and schoolchildren live and walk past this place every day,” wrote Dalit Muzzarelli, who lives in Novato, to the local council. “It would be tempting for young people to try to gain access too.”

The proposed Highway 420 site is nearly a mile from the high school and far exceeds the city’s 600-foot setback requirements for schools and other youth gathering areas.

In an email to the council, Jennifer Harwood said she lived next to the proposed location. While she said she was not generally opposed to cannabis, she feared the business might attract thieves to the area. Many others expressed similar concerns.

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

Novato Police Chief Matthew McCaffrey said that crime related to cannabis companies 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 this type of company affecting it, ”McCaffrey told the council in January.

According to Vicki Parker, Novato’s Community Development Director, Pool and Durham don’t have to start their application from scratch. However, the new location has yet to be reviewed, publicized and reviewed at another council hearing before it can be approved, she said.