Larkspur bans marijuana businesses


Photo courtesy of Nicole Sheldon

Isabel Ames

Last month, the Larkspur city council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance banning marijuana businesses, which came into full effect Oct. 17. The ban will join Larkspur’s existing restrictions on personal cultivation of marijuana and delivery services without permits. 

After a temporary moratorium established 18 months ago expired in Oct. 2019, the Larkspur city council reimplemented the ban permanently. According to Larkspur Vice-Mayor Larry Chu, youth access to marijuana was the primary issue that prompted the permanent ban.

“If [Larkspur is] going to permit [marijuana dispensaries], we need to have large enough radii around schools and places where youth are likely to congregate, such as community centers and parks,” Chu said. “I think the general realization was that by the time you draw those circles around these facilities, there really isn’t any place to put [the dispensaries].” 

 Although no local statistics exist to back Chu’s claim, Redwood senior “Kate,” who would like to remain anonymous, has been able to access marijuana from a San Francisco cannabis dispensary. 

“I have friends who go to [College of Marin] and they have a med card [because] they are 18. They get weed from dispensaries a lot and can sell it for the same price to me and some of my friends,” Katie said. 

Council members left to right: Kevin Haroff, Larry Chu, Dan Hillmer

Chu also claimed that the risk of increased crime rates was a motivation behind the ban. He believes a dispensary would be a destination attracting marijuana users from outside of Larkspur. Since Larkspur lacks such businesses, and thus cannot provide data on increased crime rates due to marijuana do not exist. However, Chu uses crime reports from Colorado and Oregon, where marijuana has been legalized for over six years, to predict what he believes to be the likely outcomes in Larkspur. The reports say property crime, burglaries, and all violent crimes have increased in communities that sell marijuana.

Lawyer and council member Scot Candell is against the ordinance. Candell has represented numerous marijuana cases throughout his career.

“I think [the ordinance] is a mistake, and I voiced that at the last city council meeting,” Candell said. “Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of just banning it, why don’t we have a discussion about it first? If everyone decides [they] want to ban it we can still ban it. There’s no hurry.”

Rather than preventing crime and youth access to marijuana, Candell says the ban has potential to increase the danger of marijuana use.

“Vaping deaths are because people are buying black market cannabis that has chemicals in it, doesn’t go through testing and is not regulated. It’s a mistake to push people in that direction,” Candell said.

Despite Candell’s opposition to the ordinance, popular demand trumped. According to Chu, 70 percent of Larkspur residents voted “yes” on Prop. 64, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana in California in 2019. However, those same residents do not want it sold in their community.

“I think people perceive Larkspur as being a suburban community where it’s family-friendly. You can apply the same thing to alcohol: you don’t want a lot of bars. It’s not the character of the town,” Chu said.

Additional bans on marijuana may be soon to follow. On Oct. 16, the first reading of a ban on the usage of THC vape devices in shared housing complexes took place. The proposition will be considered again Oct. 29.