Pot club debate reaching tipping point in San Jose

March 30, 2010 7:01:12 PM PDT
The San Jose City Council is trying to figure out what to do about clubs that sell medicinal marijuana; whether to shut them down or regulate them. The clubs say to keep them open and tax them to help with the city's budget crisis.

Steve DeAngelo is the executive director of Harborside Health Center in San Jose. It is one of an estimated 50 medical marijuana outlets that are operating without a permit. DeAngelo is begging for better guidelines.

"The problem with not regulating is that you have a completely uncontrolled proliferation of people are who doing this activity anyhow," he said.

A coalition of 16 San Jose operations called the Medicinal Collective Coalition, or MC3, descended on City Hall. They want quick action.

However, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is asking the city to move slowly, especially in light of a November ballot measure that could legalize marijuana statewide.

"I think we need to wait and find out what happens in November, so we know what the rules are before we can regulate and tax," said Reed.

One of the big questions in this debate is whether taxing cannabis sales can generate much needed revenue for the city. The Harborside Center in Oakland says it paid nearly $2 million in state sales tax last year and contributed more than $350,000 to the city's general fund. Advocates say a similar tax could benefit San Jose.

"The city could look to between $1.8 and $2.8 million in unfound revenue," said Paul Stewart with MC3.

Opponents of medical marijuana dispensaries say they can and are wreaking havoc on neighborhoods

"There are those that will misuse it, and I'm concerned about my children being raised here," said opponent Tili Ayala. "I'm appalled. I'm sorry, but I'm appalled about it."

Supporters of regulations say the City Council needs to take a stand now on how many clubs can operate in the city and where.

"I have faith in the city. It's a very progressive city," said Luke Coleman with the Purple Elephant Cooperative. "They seem very intelligent and I'm hoping for the best."

Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio is leading the charge for some kind of regulation in place by the end of June.


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