Signatures delivered to fight new SJ pot club rules

October 28, 2011 7:56:57 PM PDT
In San Jose, medical marijuana activists are fighting back. They're trying to overturn new rules the City Council put in place that sharply reduces the number of pot outlets in the city.

Campaign organizers had 30 days to collect more than 29,000 signatures and it appears they did just that, which means that a referendum to repeal San Jose's medical marijuana ordinance could be before voters in June.

Friday morning 17 boxes and nearly 50,000 signatures were rolled up to the City Clerk's Office. It's almost 20,000 more signatures than needed to put San Jose's new medical marijuana ordinance on hold.

"We the people are telling the city council they must listen to us because in our opinion, it really is a crisis of democracy," said Preston Conley, a petition campaign volunteer.

Last month the city council approved an ordinance which it says legalizes medical marijuana businesses in San Jose but limits the number to 10 and requires them to cultivate all of their marijuana on site. Former St. Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, is honorary chair of the campaign to overturn the recently adopted rules.

"The effective ban on what they passed, it just really violates the law, violates the science, violates my doctor's advise to me. It's not the city council's business," said Vasconcellos.

The City Clerk's Office is counting the signatures and if they are verified by the Registrar's Office, the matter moves on to the council. The collectives say they hope to come up with a new ordinance.

"We do need regulations and we hope now to come up with some workable and reasonable regulations in cooperation with the city council," said James Anthony from the Citizens Coalition for Patient Care.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told ABC7 once the signatures are validated, there's no room for a compromise regulation.

"The way the law works is we don't really have an opportunity to negotiate changed arrangements. It's either put it on the ballot or rescind it and to rescind it would put us right back to it's illegal," said Reed.

What is clear is that these petitions will likely restart the controversial debate over how medical marijuana dispensaries operate in San Jose.

"My guess is that about a January time frame on the decision and we'll see where it goes," said San Jose City Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Right now there are more than 100 medical marijuana shops operating throughout the city. Under the new ordinance they were all supposed to shut down on Monday and then 10 would be allowed to reopen. If these valid signatures put the ordinance on hold, it is the city attorney's position that they would then all be operating illegally again, though many of them are paying taxes.

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