SJ rescinds medical marijuana ordinance

February 14, 2012 7:47:00 PM PST
There are more than 100 pot clubs in San Jose, but an attempt to reduce the number touched off a huge legal fight. Now, the mayor is recommending the city back off, at least for now.

Medical marijuana provider Dave Hodges feels like the years of regulation debate in San Jose has been erased in minutes.

"It puts us back to square one; we have nothing," Hodges said. "The city considers us to be illegal and they are going to start enforcing."

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously to rescind an ordinance passed in September that limited the number of collectives in the city to 10 and required dispensaries to grow all medicine on site. Opponents of the ordinance collected enough signatures to challenge the rules and rather than go to voters, it's back to a grey area of police action.

"With the limited resources we have, we do have operations that are more troublesome than others and we'll focus there first, continue to set tone that it is illegal and if you are causing grief in the community we're going to go after you," San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore said.

Mayor Chuck Reed has a specific list of dispensaries that will be targeted.

"I am going to ask the council to prioritize enforcement for clubs that are causing trouble for neighbors, generating complaints and those that aren't paying their taxes," Reed said.

The finance department says there are 117 collectives actively operating in the city and 54 have been paying a 7 percent marijuana business tax since it was implemented in March, 31 are paying the tax sporadically and 32 have paid nothing or not filed.

Many collective operators say they are fine with the tax payment crackdown.

"Why should anybody the pay the tax if there are no consequences for not paying the tax? There absolutely has to be tax enforcement and that will increase the city's revenue," James Anthony of Citizens Coalition for Patient Care said.

The message from patients, providers and city leaders is to state lawmakers and the state Supreme Court, and the message is almost universal -- they want some legal guidelines.

"The medical cannabis community isn't asking for cart blanche, an open sesame type of policy, we're asking you people to regulate us," medical marijuana patient John Sutton said.

A couple of City Council members said they are trying to come up with a workable ordinance, but it has been a challenge, in part because state and federal law are in conflict.

San Jose is not the only city looking for direction. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on a couple of Southern California cases that could offer some legal guidance. There will also be more pressure on Sacramento to weigh in with some legal guidelines.


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