Up in Smoke? Medical Marijuana, Pot Clubs Back in front of Rules Committee

After failed past attempts to regulate medical marijuana collectives in San Jose, the city should take up the issue again, says Councilman Don Rocha—just as a voter initiative to legalize the stuff cleared for signature gathering.

“I believe that regulation is urgent not only because of the quality of life and public safety concerns I’m hearing from residents, but also because of concerns about who is buying marijuana at dispensaries,” Rocha writes in a memo submitted to the Rules and Open Government Committee.

Kids are buying it to smoke at school, Rocha says, crediting that allegation to the city’s gang prevention taskforce. If that’s the case, some of these kids in question are skirting the rules that require buyers to present a cannabis card and an ID to prove they’re over the age of 18. There’s already an enforceable law for that.

The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in 2011 that limited the number of pot clubs in town to 10 and required they grow all their medicine on-site. Opponents of the ruling drummed up enough signatures in a referendum effort that the city scrapped the plan, leaving the 100-plus dispensaries caught between a federal law that bans them and state laws that protect them.

That left San Jose cops to draw down enforcement to collectives that cause the most problems and garner the most complaints. Some have since closed for not paying taxes an/or operating too close to schools, violating state law.

Once a state Supreme Court ruling in May reinforced the right of municipalities to ban or regulate dispensaries, the city upped its cannabis tax from 7 to 10 percent. The bump was projected to generate an additional $1.5 million revenues for a total year-end projection of $5.4 million. The council also directed city staff to come up with a plan on how to regulate the businesses, given the court’s confirmation in local agencies’ right to enforce collectives.

Councilmembers at a Sept. 10 meeting directed staff to resume work on enforcement efforts, but they didn’t say anything about picking up work on drafting a regulatory framework, Rocha points out.

“Given the urgent need for regulation, I think we need to discuss when we want to tackle that issue,” he says in the memo.

The statewide signature drive to legalize marijuana aims to put a measure on the ballot next year. In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has said it will back off enforcing federal laws in states like California that permit some marijuana use, as long as those states have enforcement schemes of their own.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for October 2, 2013:

• Councilman Xavier Campos wants to rid the city of unpermitted guns. He’s asking the Rules committee to make the Dec. 14 gun buyback at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church a city-sponsored event. Anyone wanting to trade guns for cash can do so, no questions asked.

• Given all the charter schools cropping up all over the region, the city wants to team up with the Santa Clara Office of Education to draft some development standards.

• Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen wants the city to clarify if returning police officers qualify for pre-Measure B retirement benefits or the less-attractive post-reform pension plan.

• David Wall says he’s disgusted with all the addicts, needles and trash proliferating in St. James Park, which he calls a base camp of depravity.

• After slamming the city for failing to enforce the rule of law at its flagship park, Wall fills another page to commend his neighborhood cop for taking the time out of his day to introduce himself.

Jeffrey Bedolla is accusing Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio of Brown Act violations (Page 7 of the link) regarding the purchase and sale of a cul-de-sac near Bellarmine Prep. Oliverio, according to Bedolla’s letter, struck off a condition that required a pedestrian easement in amending the motion about to go to a council vote. The letter accuses the councilman of meeting with neighborhood association reps while the council was in session, and making that last-minute change so there wasn’t a chance for public input.

• Green business entrepreneur Jim Piazzo submitted a chart to the public record that shows the damaging effects of trichloroethylene on the human body. Reports that high levels of the clear, sweet-smelling toxic chemical commonly called TCE showed up in recent groundwater tests are attached to the chart. Santa Clara Valley has a long toxic history.

The region is home to the highest concentration of superfund sites in the nation, thanks in part to the semiconductor industry that sprang up here decades ago. A bunch of underground storage tanks leaked tens of thousands of gallons of toxic solvents into the groundwater. Just months ago, we heard about Google employees being exposed to TCEs at a work site in Mountain View.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. >  Anyone wanting to trade guns for cash can do so, no questions asked.

    There are two ideas, here:

    1. A stupid idea; and

    Guns are lawful, guns are useful for personal and property protection, and gun ownership is a human right, a civil right, AND a CONSTUTIONAL RIGHT.

    It’s stupid for the City Council to support any initiative that undermines these purposes and rights.

    For the fundamentally stupid gun buyback program to be “no questions asked” is a really stupid idea because it allows the criminal class a safe way to dispose of their illegally obtained or illegally used guns.

    That is, if the criminal class is stupid enough to believe that no questions will be asked.

    In July, a person was arrested at a gun buyback event in East Los Angeles for turning in a pipe bomb.


    It sounds like somebody asked the seller: “Is that thing a gun?”  That’s a “question”.

    Plus, gun buybacks don’t work:

    “Some scholars question the effectiveness of gun buyback programs. A 2004 report by the National Academy of Sciences titled “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review” found that the weapons typically turned in at such events are the least likely to be used in a crime.”

    Enough of Xavier Campos and his pointless, dead end, time wasting, ego polishing, grandstanding politics.

    • Your last line sums it up well.  Crime is running rampant in D5 and Campos who is a so-called gang specialist by trade has been a quiet and 100% ineffective leader in the community.  He’ll grandstand with a gun buyback because in his entire first term he’s not accomplished one single significant thing other than manage to not get prosecuted in the Shirakawa DNA mailgate.

      • More accurately , Campos has been silenced by a majority of the City Council who behind Mayor Reed claim that there is no crime problem in San Jose- a sentiment that is often echoed in the SJMN and on this very site – look no further than JK’s piece debunking the SJ-Detroit comparisons.

  2. Lets stop worrying about the “big bad” Marijuana issue and lets focus on the corrupt Mayor and incompetent Council.

    all these stupid gun laws do is prohibit law abiding citizens from protecting themselves. do you honestly think that criminals care about any laws regarding guns? thats just sheer stupidity , but that what we’ve come to expect here in san jose

  3. With the increased enforcement and higher tax rate, MJ now brings in TWICE the tax revenue that the A’s Stadium COULD generate, if we gift the billionaire owner dozens of millions of dollars.  MJ taxation does not cost hundreds of millions in Redevelopment land nor infrastructure upgrades, lawsuits against America’s past time or future promises to wealthy developers.  The current City Council majority are inept, disgraceful borderline criminals who need to be taken to task for their wasteful decisions and shameless blame on employees.

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