San Jose votes to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to deliver

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
In Aug. 19, 2015, file photo, Canna Care employee John Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif.
In Aug. 19, 2015, file photo, Canna Care employee John Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A number of changes approved Wednesday by the San Jose City Council will allow medical marijuana collectives a bit more freedom in conducting business.

In a 10 to 1 vote, Wednesday the council allowed the city's 16 registered collectives to run two cultivation sites and make deliveries to patients or caregivers.

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Under the city's current program, the collectives can cultivate marijuana at an off-site location in San Jose or a neighboring county and must be closed off to the public, assistant to the city manager Michelle McGurk said during today's council meeting.

Collectives can also cultivate at a second location in any county across the state where it is permitted under the changes approved by the council, according to McGurk.

San Jose is the only city in the county that allows medical marijuana, McGurk said.

No more than two collectives can share a site and the crops. A 50-foot buffer zone is eliminated between cultivation locations, she said.

Another major change is allowing deliveries restricted to only patients and caregivers who are 21 years and older between 8 a.m. and midnight, according to McGurk.

The deliverers must be working for a collective, undergo a background check and submit to vehicle inspections by San Jose police, McGurk said.

Many rules under the current program passed by the council in June 2014 will remain in place for the collectives including staying 1,000 feet away from schools and 500 feet away from rehabilitation centers and emergency shelters, she said.

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The city will also maintain its zoning districts to downtown commercial spaces except the ground floor, combined industrial and commercial spots, industrial park areas, light industrial sites and heavy industrial locations.

The current program only allows cultivation indoors and collectives have shown little interest in operating greenhouses at industrial areas, McGurk said.

City staff plans to present the council during its Nov. 1 meeting with an urgency ordinance that reinforces the city's ban on recreational marijuana use in response to possible passage of Proposition 64 on the November ballot that would legalize recreational or adult use of cannabis, McGurk said.

San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia contrasted the days when the city had more than 120 illegal marijuana dispensaries at commercial sites that served more as lounges and bars to the robust regulatory system that currently monitors 16 collectives.

By the end of the fiscal year, the program will transition from the City Manager's Office to the Police Department's Division of Medical Marijuana Control, Garcia said.

At Wednesday's meeting, the council voted 8 to 3 to direct city staff to look at whether medical marijuana distributors, manufacturers and testing labs should be allowed in the city and present their recommendations to the Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee.

City Councilman Ash Kalra called on the council to have city staff immediately explore the issue, which is also being examined by the state, rather than at the council's next priority setting session in January.

"If the council doesn't find it to be a priority we're going to be falling behind in terms of having a regulatory program that's consistent with what the state is doing," Kalra said.

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City Councilman Raul Peralez said having city staff look at the issue now will remove the redundancy of going back to priority setting.

Mayor Sam Liccardo, who was one of the three dissenting votes, said the council will have a difficult time getting work done by placing marijuana above other issues such as public safety and emergency needs for the homeless.