Two years after the marijuana industry overturned local regulations on collectives, city officials aim to give it another shot.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider an ordinance proposal that would, among other proscriptions, limit pot shops to commercial and industrial districts and require them to grow their medicine on-site. It would also impose a 1,000-foot buffer between clubs and schools, daycares, community centers, libraries, parks and places of worship and 500 feet from drug rehabs and homes.
Mayoral candidates and council members Sam Liccardo, Madison Nguyen and Pierluigi Oliverio authored a joint memo that supports “sensible regulation” over an outright ban. When the city imposed a 10-dispensary cap along with a set of land-use rules a few years ago, cannabis club operators fought back with enough signatures to nullify them. The fear among elected leaders now is that if the city doesn’t come up with a solid regulatory proposal, they could face another referendum.
“San Jose could ban medical marijuana, as many of our neighbors have,” Nguyen, Oliverio and Liccardo state in their memo. “However, a ban is likely to be overturned through referendum. If this happens, San Jose would be left without regulations again. This doesn't serve our residents, nor is what the people of San Jose want.”
Sixty percent of residents want the city to adopt regulations that allow collectives to operate “with clear controls,” according to a recent city-led budget poll. Only 16 percent favored a ban and 21 percent the status quo.
Cannabis lobbyist James Anthony worries that the proposed rules would choke out all but a handful of pot clubs, allowing the city to clear the field and play favorites with some operators.
But city leaders want to reign in an industry that’s proliferated in the absence of local law.
Collectives first appeared in San Jose following the 1996 passage of a state law that allowed medicinal use of the drug. But federal agents pretty much stamped out the industry by 2001, rendering municipal land-use laws moot. In 2009, the U.S. Attorney General rolled out guidelines that directed law enforcement to focus on “significant” drug traffickers instead of medical collectives. The gesture emboldened people to open up collectives once more. Throughout, the drug has remained illegal under federal law.
The industry thrived, particularly in San Jose, which saw upward of 100 collectives by the time the city came up with land-use rules in 2011. Today, about 80 still operate within city limits— every other city in Santa Clara County has banned them. Most of them pay a local “business tax”—10 percent of gross receipts—netting the city $5.6 million a year.
In the proposal going before the council this week, the District Attorney’s Office points to a connection between collectives and black market drug cartels (which, incidentally, have their own patron saint, the report notes). And Public Defender’s Office says the number of marijuana-related suspensions at local schools has doubled since 2011.
San Jose has suffered since we were forced to repeal our medical marijuana regulations,” the memo states. “We need to balance the medical needs of the seriously ill with the needs of our neighborhoods. We must protect children and teenagers and keep marijuana out of their hands.”
Meanwhile, two groups are trying to land a regulatory initiative on the November ballot. One, led by a group called “Sensible San Jose,” seeks to bar the city from using funds collected from pot shops on enforcement actions against it. The other, spearheaded by dispensary owner Dave Hodges, would establish a cannabis commission to help govern the industry.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 13, 2014:
- The city wants to back two statewide propositions on the June 3 ballot. One, Prop. 41, would authorize $600 million in bond debt to pay for housing for homeless veteran. The other, Prop. 42, would require local agencies to pay for public records request without getting reimbursed by the state.
- People are worried that a development in Councilman Johnny Khamis’ district would remove a dozen oak trees.
- Recycling rates will tick up a tad this summer: 3 percent for single-family homes and 5 percent for denser dwellings.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260