Smoke Deflector

Pierluigi Oliverio was the first person in San Jose to see the green tidal wave coming.

Last October, the number of local pot clubs could be counted on one hand. Now, medical marijuana collectives have sprung up in every part of the city—some more legit than others. One web directory currently lists almost 70 San Jose–based medical marijuana dispensaries.

With the San Jose City council finally taking a serious look at regulating medical marijuana this week, the District 6 councilmember could not be blamed for saying, “I told you so.”

“I hate to keep going back, but if we would have done this a little earlier, everything would have been fine,” Oliverio says. “I think avoiding lawsuits where we don’t need them would be a good thing right now. I would not want to see the council pass a regulatory schema that has the same issues that L.A. has now, which is 15 different lawsuits.”

Instead of jumping on the issue as Oliverio suggested in March—looking to other cities’ medi-pot regulations for guidelines and nipping the issue in the bud (so to speak), San Jose has taken months to draw up a medical marijuana ordinance from the ground up.

It’s an ordinance that no one is happy with. The number of local collectives continues to grow, and several are threatening litigation.

Oliverio says the snail’s pace the city attorney has taken on this fast-moving issue is frustrating.

“On March 30, we [the City Council] said, ‘Hey, let’s go do something,’” Oliverio says. “But even then, city staff and the city attorney wanted to reinvent the wheel. We’ve got an ordinance now that’s 60-some pages, and it’s problematic.”

Problematic is an understatement. In fact, the local medical marijuana collectives that originally pushed for an ordinance are livid with the pile of papers City Attorney Rick Doyle is recommending the council adopt. Around 500 people showed up for protests in front of City Hall on Tuesday, and hundreds of local medical marijuana patients attended the June 22 city council meeting.

Dave Hodges, founder of the San Jose Cannabis Buyers Collective, says the city is viewing medicinal cannabis as an illegal drug, not as a prescription medication.

“They’re really treating us like we’re criminals,” Hodges says. “They’re assuming everybody is some kind of horrible drug dealer. But that’s not the facts.”

One passage in the ordinance says the collectives may only use barter and trade, with no cash sales. Another part states that all collectives must cultivate their cannabis on-site.

Putting aside the fact that many collectives maintain a doctor’s-office-like atmosphere, which doesn’t lend itself to large scale plant cultivation, the ordinance also states that collectives may only locate in commercial zones—areas where, Hodges says, setting up large indoor grow rooms would be unrealistic.

James K. Roberts, a San Jose attorney who is representing several collectives, says the ordinance was drawn up with the assumption that there is something wrong with medical marijuana.

“We know that these locations generate very little complaints,” Roberts says.  “If they would go and talk to the neighbors, overwhelmingly they are saying things like, ‘Well, gee whiz, we have a little increase in [business] in our sandwich shops.’”

Oliverio says that a big part of this chasm between the city attorney and the collectives results from a failure to communicate on the part of the city.

“At the outreach meeting that was held [at the beginning of June], the city attorney’s office didn’t even attend” Oliverio says. “There were a ton of attorneys, and when they raised legal questions, no one could even offer an opinion. So, I think that the city attorney’s office really needs to be more into the process.”

Still, Oliverio acknowledges that much has changed with this issue since he first brought it to the council last fall.

“I do think the city attorney has a narrow interpretation of the law,” he says, “but you know, that’s sort of what we pay him for. We pay them to manage risk. They see S.B. 420 and the attorney general’s recommendations from Jerry Brown, and Prop. 215. And then they see the federal side [in a booming voice], ‘This is a narcotic!’ So, we are breaking new ground.”

Oliverio hopes an agreement can be reached soon so the city can start looking toward one of the benefits of pot clubs: namely, tax revenues to help San Jose’s foundering budget.



  1. There is really no need for all this posturing and debate.  If THC truly has a medicinal use and the voters have allowed it to be prescribed- then it should be. 

    Not in a separate place with special rules, in a pharmacy with specific refills just like every other regaled drug.  This bogus claim that all the taxes will make it worthwhile are bunk without the oversight to ensure proper business practices are followed.  These co-ops and dispensaries are shady and cannot be trusted.  Pharmacies are well established and already regulated- it just makes sense.

  2. Some of the city staff recommendations for medical marijuana dispensaries are truly bizarre and would almost certainly result in legal challenges.

    Besides the odd requirement for on-site cultivation, another proposed regulation is to ban the sale of “edible” marijuana products (brownies, butter, etc.) which are commonly used by patients who, due to respiratory conditions, are unable to inhale marijuana. What possible purpose would this regulation serve?

    They also want to limit these businesses to only 10 dispensaries, chosen by lottery. Have such unusual standards ever been applied to any other business in San Jose? Do we limit liquor stores and license them by lottery? It looks almost as if the city staff is inviting the “equal protection under the law” lawsuits that Oliverio is trying to avoid. It also appears that they are defying the direction given to them by the city council to come up with workable regulations that guarantee safe access for qualified patients.

    If anyone is interested in reading the city staff’s 95 page report here’s a link:

  3. Listen, you lunkheads! Put down your bong pipes and focus.

    If something is claimed to have “medicinal” benefits, then it’s regulated by the FDA. Period.  End of story.

    San Jose doesn’t need to write it’s own regulations or set up its own FDA. 

    If the City Council is going to assure the “safety and efficacy” of medicinal pot, then let’s see them do it in open public session.

    If the City Council has time on it’s hands and needs something to do, it can try fixing potholes on the streets, and not pot clubs.

  4. “If the City Council is going to assure the ‘safety and efficacy’ of medicinal pot, then let’s see them do it in open public session.”

    You mean like the two city council meetings, and the stakeholders meeting where the item was already discussed? That’s only what’s happened so far. The ordinance will also be discussed at the upcoming august 3rd meeting.

    Is that “open” enough for you?

    • > Is that “open” enough for you?


      I want ALL of the council members to participate as subjects in the FDA required clinical trials.

      I also want FDA SWAT teams to observe the clinical trials and club and arrest anyone who uses “medicinal” cannabis illegally.

  5. This could be a real revenue generator for the city.
    Involve the FEDs, enforce the laws, pass out the tickets, close the illegal shops. There can’t be a market for 70 legally offices with valid patients and permits. So the saturation is banking on fraudulent sales. Being a “collective” they can control price, availability and guarantee profits and with more sales. Many people have already expressed discontentment with drugs being sold near their businesses. The city government isn’t doing their job prohibiting sales by law and the administration should be held accountable. Perhaps mandatory drug testing for all Council members. The police and the courts can’t fight it all themselves. Citizens must take back control of their city or live in a pipe dream reality. Have you seen some cities fighting the drug wars spilling over? These drugs end up ruining children’s lives and making drug dealers rich. The drugs get stronger assuring more illegal use of other more potent drugs and problematic health problems in the future on government budgets.

    Is this what you want for your city?

  6. In Cailfornia (the “test” site for D.C.) We as a group (MC3) in whole have worked in a positive light to help shape the laws for us to have the currently changing laws we do today in San Jose. Yes it’s true most stuff is predetrimined before Council goes to public meetings. They do however listen to the public at that time & what is said on that day DOES COUNT for all Medical Cannabis users.

     For example: in San Jose, CA IF the City of San Jose keeps the Co-op’s, Collective or despensaries (in fact are all the same thing, lawyers just choose to use different names) The “taxes” would help to do one of 2 things, keep either a Community Center open or keep all public libraries hours open for a full week. It is up to the people in the community to write letters before the Council meeting hits. It’s letters in writing that helps document the people
    & their demands. 

    In the United States there a very little “real” cases studied on Cannabis. However you go to Canada & parts of Europe where it is leagal and much studies have been done. We could use “their” help to show indetail studies on cures to issues and help to shape the need in the medical world.

    We are still learning much like you are.
    Keep growin to over throw the Government! Be a Jonny Hemp Seed ;p
    We planted a seed now watch us grow, keep it smokin. smile

    August 3rd will be pushed off to a later date. Some Council Members are trying to hold out for November’s ballot before making a decision on the issues. Find “HRCBayArea” on Face Book for more information and template letters to send to Cities Council offices. 

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