San Jose places cap on medical marijuana outlets

April 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Jose may have finally hashed out its medical marijuana policy. Until now, the city was taxing all medical pot sold in the city, even though all pot clubs were considered illegal. Now that is changing and the number of clubs allowed in San Jose is being drastically cut.

The issue of how to treat pot clubs has been going on for nearly two years. Tuesday night, the council decided to finally regulate them, but those guidelines are coming under fire.

Several medical marijuana supporters, users, and dispensers are outraged. They met for an emergency meeting Tuesday night immediately after the San Jose City Council voted 6-5 to regulate and limit pot clubs in the city.

Council members decided to allow no more than 10 collectives in the city. There are currently more than 120. All of the marijuana has to be grown on site, and the licenses will be given out after a screening process on a first come first serve basis.

"It's not going to be easy. We don't know how many qualify, but we will not be making subjective decisions about which one is best or not, that'll be a time stamp," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

"That doesn't lend to me the fact that getting the best collectives that have the best business processes are doing it for safest access, etc. It's for the person who sleeps in front of the door and waits in line to turn in their application," said City Council member Pierluigi Oliverio.

The council opted against an outright ban on dispensaries -- something a few council members and even the police chief support.

"There are a lot of people who are operating well outside the law," said Police Chief Chris Moore. "I would prefer a ban if that's what you're asking."

Instead, the city will now dedicate more resources like police, code enforcement, and zoning personnel to this issue. Even though the city considers this a compromise, collectives and patients see things differently.

"I'm definitely fine with a cap or a number up to 30 possibly, but 10 is too low right now," said Toma Pirslin, a medical marijuana user.

"The bad news is what they passed makes it nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, for anybody to operate," said Dave Hodges from the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition.

Club owners are saying it'll be impossible for them to grow everything on site. They say they don't have the capacity and it's simply not the norm. Some collectives are considering taking legal action.

When the debate began, the city had only two dispensaries.

Steve DeAngelo is executive director of Harborside Health Center, which operates collectives in San Jose and Oakland. He brought a copy of a check to the council hearing -- a payment of $35,416 for one month's worth of marijuana sales tax it owes the city.

"Does the council really want to ban businesses which are going to be contributing?" said DeAngelo. "If you multiply this by 12 months, it's $420,000 from one collective."

The city manager's office confirmed it was cashing the check and will add it to the general fund. Reed said the current budget doesn't count on this revenue.

As important as this issue is, a number of council members told ABC7 they feel they're being diverted from a more pressing city issue, the projected $115 million city budget deficit.

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