County Considers Pot Club Ban

Cannabis clubs, already banned from every local jurisdiction except for some slim pickings of real estate in San Jose, may get outlawed from unincorporated Santa Clara County, too.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider whether to prohibit collectives while drafting a plan to help San Jose enforce its stringent new marijuana laws. Right now, no collectives operate in unincorporated areas, but about 10 people a year inquire about opening some along Bascom and San Carlos avenues and by the fairgrounds.

But the issue has gained greater relevance for the county as of late. For one thing, San Jose adopted land-use and operational regulations governing the industry. There’s also a good chance that a citizen-led initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults will make it to the 2016 ballot. Meanwhile, a bill making its way through the state Legislature would reinforce local authority over pot clubs, regulate cultivation and make collectives subject to inspections by county health officials.

Deputy County Executive Sylvia Gallegos recommends an all-out ban for unincorporated areas. She also suggests studying ways to fill regulatory gaps in San Jose and drafting legislative positions to guide regional policy. That would leave the county in a position to advocate for medical research, take part in forums on the effects of legalizations and address quality-of-life issues, she says in a memo.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal rules. But a 1996 state law permitted its medical use for seriously ill patients. In 2004, a bill introduced by John Vasconcellos established a statewide voluntary ID card registry for collectives and require counties to maintain those records.

California laws, like those in 12 other states, give qualified immunity to medical pot users. But it doesn’t exempt them from stricter local rules, like those just passed by a 7-3 City Council vote San Jose. SB 1262, the pro-pot bill penned by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), would protect county and city regulations and explicitly grant authority to impose more restrictions and levy more taxes.

The county, for the most part, agrees with San Jose’s hardline stance on pot clubs, especially the part imposing a “closed-loop” cultivation system to reduce illegal outdoor grows by limiting dispensaries to a single cultivation site.

In her memo to supervisors, Gallegos says they should consider a ban in the interest of public health, public safety and keeping it out of the hands of children—all issues that draw heavily on county support. If kids get caught with the stuff, they’re often processed through the county’s Juvenile Probation Department.

She points to a report by the Office of the Public Defender that shows a sharp uptick (106 percent in 2011-12 compared to the year prior) in drug-related suspensions in San Jose’s East Side Union High School District. It should be noted that the analysis doesn’t pinpoint pot-related incidents.

“These violations were not all for marijuana as the education code does not require schools to track the type of substance,” Gallegos explains. “However, based on the public defender’s work … it was reported anecdotally that the vast majority of these incidents did, in fact, involve marijuana.”

She doesn’t entirely blame the collectives, though.

“[O]ne study suggests it may not be solely the availability of medical marijuana that affects youth use, but … the normative environment and adult attitudes toward use that result in increased youth use,” she states.

The dearth of regulation has also placed undue strain on county law enforcement, the memo continues. An analysis by the District Attorney’s Office points to evidence that some local dispensaries sell marijuana harvested by drug cartels.

Until regulations catch up to the industry, the county should ban collectives altogether, the memo states. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to come up with requirements about labeling and dosage. Since the state doesn’t consider marijuana an agricultural crop, it’s not inspected for pesticides, mold, pests or diseases. Environmental health officials don’t regulate edibles to make sure they’re prepared properly. The Department of Weights and Measures doesn’t’ inspect pot products to make sure they contain the stated weight, measure or count.

Even if supervisors approve a ban, the county will still play a role in enacting San Jose’s regulations, the memo continues.

“The administration believes that it would be productive and important to investigate where the county could contribute to establishing a more rigorous regulatory environment of local dispensaries,” Gallegos writes.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for June 24, 2014:

  • A special tax measure on the fall ballot aims would help repave a network of private roads just west of Gilroy.
  • Supervisors earmarked $850,000 for a new anti-human trafficking team. The Human Trafficking Commission was formed, in part, because high-profile events like those at the soon-to-open Levi’s stadium often cause a surge in human trafficking, the county says. Bay Area already ranks among the top regions in the country for the crime. Victims are often foster children of smuggled immigrants forced into sex work after being lured with promises of a legitimate job.
  • The San Jose Conservation Corps, a group of at-risk young men and women, will help maintain county roads as part of their paid work assignment.
  • Sheriff's deputies will continue to provide law enforcement services to the towns of Los Altos and Saratoga.
  • For $134,000 through 2015, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley will continue to provide advocacy services for minors and their caregivers.
  • A 52-week program that aims to prevent domestic violence by teaching families about gender roles, socialization, the nature of violence, power play and the effects of abuse on children will cost the county $62,500 to continue through next year.
  • A pair of local philanthropists donated $81,000 to the Valley Medical Center to buy web-enabled cameras to keep families connected to their babies kept in the neonatal intensive care unit. The cameras reduce maternal stress and promote bonding.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001

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


  1. In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

    In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

    Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

    People who use marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

    Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make us out to be. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

    Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

    Although, that doesn’t mean a damned thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

    To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, glorifies, and advertises alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

    There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long, hard day, than having a drink or two of alcohol.

    So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

    We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

    Has a marijuana user ever tried to force you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force us not to either.

    Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon all of us with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  2. Good luck to the Roads and Airports division. It isn’t easy getting any productive work out of today’s young men and women- especially the “at risk” ones. But with our county devoting more and more money to entitlement programs, *somebody* has to do road maintenance. Let’s give these crews the thumbs up and a smile when we see them toiling away by the side of the road.

  3. Seems to me Santa Clara County (and city of San Jose) has an opportunity on their hands. Gavin Newsom recognized the huge disparity between local and federal marriage laws when he was Mayor of SF. Now look at the country – the tide has turned in favor of marriage equality. Santa Clara County and the City of San Jose could team up together to help change the tide against marijuana use. Put pressure on the FDA to come up with the necessary requirements for dosage and labeling. Get the ball rolling! Instead, what it sounds like is that everyone who earns a pension is really tired and doesn’t want to do anything because it will require too much brain power. I don’t know, to me it sounds like the San Jose City Council, outgoing Mayor Reed, and the Santa Clara County Supervisors are all taking hits from the same bong of beuracracy. I don’t see Santa Clara County banning alcohol and tobacco “in the interest of public health, public safety and keeping it out of the hands of children—all issues that draw heavily on county support.”

  4. > Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

    So, marijuana is a “safer choice instead of alcohol”. Really!

    > “Excessive alcohol use is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States and costs $223.5 billion, or about $1.90 per drink, in 2006.”

    So, marijuana is only the fifth of six leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and costs only $200 billion?

    I feel better now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *