Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Board of Supervisors



April 15, 2009


April 28, 2009







Honorable Board of Supervisors


Supervisor Carole Groom and Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson

Housing, Health, and Human Services Committee of the Board


Ordinance Regulating the Collective Cultivation and Distribution of Medical Marijuana



Adopt an ordinance adding Chapter 5.148 to Title 5 of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code, relating to regulation of collective cultivation and distribution of Medical Marijuana.



Commitment: Basic health and safety for all; collaborative government.

Goal(s): Goals Nos. 7 and 8 -- Regulation of medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives will maintain and enhance the public safety of visitor and residents, and will help vulnerable people achieve a better quality of life.

Goal No. 22 -- the ordinance reflects collaboration of county and local governments to develop strategic approaches to issues facing the entire County.



While the sale and possession of certain drugs is unlawful, the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act create a limited exception for seriously ill patients whose health would benefit from marijuana, and for their primary caregivers. Those patients and their primary caregivers are permitted to possess and collectively cultivate medical marijuana without risk of being prosecuted for that activity. Primary caregivers are defined as those who consistently provided caregiving independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana. In addition, primary caregivers may receive compensation for actual expenses, including reasonable compensation incurred for services provided to eligible persons and payment for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in providing those services. State law authorizes local agencies to adopt and enforce medical marijuana laws consistent with recent state legislation.


In 2007, following law enforcement activity that led to the closure of several medical marijuana enterprises in the City of San Mateo, our office was asked to draft a model ordinance that could be considered by local agencies in the County. The intent was to provide safe access to medical marijuana for those who are medically in need, while discouraging the infiltration of organized criminal activity that might attempt to benefit from state medical marijuana laws.



Our goal was to draft an ordinance that was no more restrictive than state law, but would provide a safe and effective way of implementing state medical marijuana laws. The City of South San Francisco adopted a medical marijuana ordinance several years ago, and we borrowed elements of that ordinance. The City of San Mateo has also recently adopted a similar ordinance.


The ordinance reflects the policy that, while a community will support the collective activities that are sanctioned by state law, it should not be subjected to the consequences of businesses that engage in the criminal activity of selling marijuana for profit. The ordinance has been reviewed and approved by the District Attorney and by the Sheriff, and has been shared with all City Attorneys in the County. It was considered by the Board’s Housing, Health and Human Services Committee on April 7, 2009. Since that time, the District Attorney has suggested two changes, of which the only substantive change is that collectives would be prohibited from employing felons or persons who are currently on probation to work at or for the collective.


The ordinance provides for licensing of medical marijuana co-ops and collectives by the County License Board. The application and the license includes a series of license conditions that are (1) based on health and safety considerations, (2) consistent with state law, and (3) included in other local agencies’ medical marijuana ordinances. The ordinance would not criminalize any actions that are not already criminalized under state law, and it does not address “dispensaries”, which are illegal “for-profit” enterprises that are not protected by state law. The attachment to this report summarizes the main elements of the ordinance.


The ordinance could be effective sixty days after adoption.