The City Council deadlocked in a 5-5 vote Tuesday (with Pete Constant absent) on medical marijuana zoning, moving to table the action another week.
It marks the fourth week of deferrals as city officials attempt to come up with a set of local rules governing cannabis clubs, which remain legal under state law but illegal on a federal level. Three years ago the council passed an ordinance with a 10-club cap, which was overturned by referendum. Since then, the industry has exploded in absence of zoning restrictions.
“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’” quipped Councilman Ash Kalra, who called for more time to study some aspects of the proposed ordinance, like whether to limit cultivation within city limits.
To comply with federal rules, San Jose needs to maintain a “closed-loop” system, one that tracks cannabis from farming to sale to make sure it doesn’t profit the black market. The motion coming up at the June 10 meeting would delay the cultivation clause to August, giving city staff time to figure out whether marijuana sold in San Jose could be grown elsewhere.
The draft ordinance coming back for a vote next week (and available here for review) would ban collectives from all but 623 parcels in the city and set distance requirements between pot shops and schools, churches, community centers, homes and other sensitive uses.
Mayor Chuck Reed raised concerns about collectives operating in certain industrial zones, fearing their proximity to job centers could drive away business.
“That would be a deal-killer for a tenant,” he said.
Councilman Don Rocha said he agrees with many parts of the draft ordinance, but some details need to get worked out or the city risks another referendum or having its rules trumped by a collective-backed ballot measure this fall.
For one, to prohibit cash would effectively shut down all pot clubs, he said, since federal law prevents them from using banks and credit. The ordinance would prohibit salaries and sale of paraphernalia. It would also require clubs to keep hard copies of all records instead of electronic bookkeeping, something Rocha called an onerous mandate.
“When we sat up here [in 2012] on this medicinal marijuana issue and folks shared quite loudly their concerns, we generally ignored a good amount of what they asked for and we paid the price,” Rocha said, urging his colleagues to consider a series of amendments before casting a vote. “I’m not willing to take that gamble.”
Since the referendum, more than 80 collectives have sprung up in San Jose. The city collects a 10-percent tax from the bulk of them, which amounts to more than $5.6 million a year. Several shops, however, have opted not to comply with the tax until the city comes up with a regulatory plan.
Meanwhile, every other city in Santa Clara County has outlawed collectives. Later this month, the county’s Board of Supervisors is poised to consider a ban of its own for unincorporated areas.
Councilwoman Rose Herrera offered a failed motion to do the same in San Jose, arguing that the collectives aren’t as much for patients dealing with chronic pain as they are for recreational users. She said she worries about an uptick in marijuana-related suspensions at local schools and that the abundance of collectives have put cannabis in the hands of children.
“It’s about money,” she said. “Let’s be real.”
The city’s reputation is at stake, she added.
“What is it that we want for San Jose to be? The Capital of Silicon Valley or Capital of Marijuana Central?”