For the second week in a row, San Jose’s city council pushed back completion of a discussion and vote on regulations for marijuana dispensaries. During the meeting, council members continued discussions with staffers.
But a long session–interrupted by nearly two hours of discussion about potential VTA and city sales tax measures for transportation, street maintenance and infrastructure backlog–cut into the talk about regulating the dispensaries.
That topic will now top the council’s agenda at its June 3 meeting. Since the motion is already on the floor, there will be no public hearing. However, the public can still weigh in by sending letters and/or emails to the council members or to Mayor Chuck Reed.
It’s likely that the final decision will include a number of regulations for the sale of medical marijuana. Among them are locations, relegating them to industrial areas away from residences, schools, daycare centers, churches and rehab centers. Staff identified 623 parcels in industrial parks and locations for light and heavy industrial in the city.
Public testimony on May 13 included more than half of those speaking asking council members to keep dispensaries away from commercial business parks or commercial areas. Some were parents complaining about the heavy smell of marijuana, public urination and litter. Others were doctors, dentists and business owners who cited patient complaints and the potential loss of patients if collectives were allowed nearby.
At the same time, a number of medical marijuana patients testified that the drug has kept them alive during their illnesses, giving them the relief that no other drugs could.
Some groups of San Jose dispensaries are expressing concern that regulations could prohibit collectives. Sensible San Jose has a petition out that “fills the space between the city’s overly restrictive approach and the other more permissive initiative. It allows for workable regulation and reasonable access,” according to its website.
Sensible San Jose is currently gathering signatures for its own Control and Regulate Medical Cannabis Act. Those names were due to the city clerk on May 27 in order to get the measure on this November’s ballot.
Several other cannabis organizations may also be working on petitions. They include the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, which hopes to establish a commission to aid the city in regulating medical marijuana businesses.
It remains to be seen what will happen between now and Aug. 5, when the council must decide whether to take the issue to voters. The council has several options: adopt the proposed ordinance exactly as written, submit the staff ordinance to the voters or require a report to be filed under the elections code.
The staff ordinance places collectives within industrial cores, thus eliminating the concerns raised by residents. It also would remove any possibility of being near schools, neighborhoods, churches, daycare centers and commercial businesses.
The staff also dealt with concerns from the U.S. Department of Justice. These include keeping anyone under age 21 out of the dispensaries and ensuring the collectives do not receive marijuana from criminals, drug cartels and gangs.
During a visit to a collective on Stevens Creek Boulevard, Maryanne Groan, chief of staff for Councilwoman Rose Herrera, noted that one of the dispensary staff looked young to her. When asked, the manager said the staffer was 17. “I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want my child working in a medical marijuana dispensary,” Groan said.
Another part of any potential regulations centers on cultivation. The staff has determined that cultivation only can occur within San Jose city limits. This would prevent sales of the commodity from gangs, criminals or drug cartels. Nearby cities such as Gilroy and Morgan Hill have banned dispensaries, and the county has banned cultivation.
Reed and city staff hope to be able to control cultivation from seed to sale, including transportation. Limiting cultivation to within the city limits means that collectives can verify where the marijuana is coming from.
“The mayor’s goal is for the city to enact strong and effective medical marijuana regulations that keeps marijuana out of the hands of children, protects neighborhoods and businesses from cartels, gangs and other criminals and complies with the guidelines established by the federal government while also ensuring that seriously ill patients have access to the medicines they need,” said Michelle McGurk, public information officer for Reed.
Colorado (where in 2012 voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana) strictly monitors every phase of cultivation, she adds. This includes a regulatory authority that covers all timing of transportation and routes for distribution of the drug. San Jose has no legal authority to inspect transportation from other California counties.
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