SJ councilmember proposes taxing pot clubs

November 4, 2009 7:03:16 PM PST
The largest city in the Bay Area doesn't have any rules in place for medical marijuana dispensaries, but one San Jose city councilmember wants to change that. He is proposing regulation and taxation.

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Erika Taylor Montgomery says she lives with pain on a daily basis from two near fatal car accidents. A marijuana brownie brings her more relief than a dozen prescription medications.

"I'm made to feel like a criminal because of that, because there are no rules or laws in place that allow me to get [medical marijuana] on a legal basis in San Jose," says Taylor Montgomery.

San Jose has more than a million people and just one unregulated cannabis club. Compare that to San Francisco with 21 licensed operations, Oakland with four, Berkeley has three and Santa Cruz -- with a fraction of the population -- has two.

The Cannabis Buyers Collective in San Jose opened just four months ago in a small office in a building just one block from Valley Fair Mall. There are no rules for medical marijuana outlets in San Jose and one councilmember wants that to change.

"If we don't do anything, they are going to be here anyway. So we might as well find where we want them and where we don't want them and that's a pragmatic approach," says San Jose City Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Among other things, Oliverio wants San Jose to have an ordinance that limits the number of dispensaries in the city and establishes a special cannabis business tax.

The proposal came before the Rules and Open Government Committee Wednesday afternoon and the public has a chance to speak. The vast majority spoke in favor of San Jose to take action.

"There's an opportunity here for San Jose to really become an example and a leader in how to properly regulate medical cannabis use," says Hector Gonzales, a medical marijuana supporter.

Ron Kirkish represented the opposition arguing the social costs of medical marijuana outweigh any benefits.

"Our kids are already getting into it. It's going to legitimize it even further and it's going to get even further into our population," says Kirkish.

The city attorney and other city staff will now look at a wide range of issues from taxation to location before the debate is sent on to the full City Council.

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