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SJ City Council gets earful on pot dispensaries

June 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than 70 medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up all over San Jose and on Monday night the city council took action to regulate them. The focal point of the debate was a pot dispensary located near a nursery school.

When industries go unregulated, they do not fall under zoning laws and that is how the Alphabet Soup Pre-School ended up just a number of feet from a medical marijuana dispensary. One San Jose city councilmember said the goal is to not end up like Los Angeles where they have more marijuana dispensaries than they have Starbucks coffee shops.

"We are concerned about the risk to our children. They will be exposed to drug-related crime right next to the school," said parent Paul Campbell.

The need to regulate the growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries in San Jose was voiced by parents from the preschool.

"An article in the Mercury News stated that security at small dispensaries is an issue and there was an armed robbery at one last month," said parent Shannon Morgan.

The Purple People Medical dispensary is about 100 feet away. Parents are pulling students out, and the preschool owner is afraid she'll have to shut down.

"There's nothing for them to worry about," said Purple People medical manager Andrew Runner.

Runner says the marijuana is not smoked here and he has hired security.

"I got ex-military as security, ex-marines, ex-club bouncers," said Runner.

"Doing nothing is a big problem and so far San Jose has done nothing," says City Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Oliverio is pushing for regulation because it would require zoning laws that could keep dispensaries in industrial areas.

"You're sending someone off like they're doing something wrong or dirty in an industrialized area. I go to a current one that's in a commercial area and it's much more safe," says medical marijuana user Victoria Fox.

There are about 70 medical dispensaries in San Jose, but Oliverio wants to limit them to just 10. A lottery or a contract bidding process would select the 10 and the city would license and tax them.

"The budget is of course in a major deficit situation and cannabis clubs could provide money to the city in forms of taxes that could be very advantageous," says Ericka Taylor Montgomery from the San Jose Cannabis Buyers Collective.

Oliverio said one dispensary in Oakland pays the city more than $500,000 in sales tax each year. Using the night's feedback, city attorneys will draft an ordinance and have it ready for the city council to vote on sometime in August.


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