Marijuana Ordinance Back in Front of City Council

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.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
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. I read the DA’s report for which the link was provided. What a naive notion that local regulation will have a significant impact on the illegal cultivation and sale of MJ. Legalize it as Colorado did. There are a couple of “dispensaries” on S. First between Santa Clara and San Fernando. None of the people I see going in and out look like anything other than dopers.

    • you must know a lot of “dopers” to be able to peg them so well how much time do you have to stare at people walking in and out of private medicinal clinics where they don’t have to worry about being robbed or ripped off to get a holistic herb they so chose to use in our fine county. If you don’t know any dopers your just a judgmental snicker prude!

  2. sheer stupidity ! all this will do is make everyday travel to surrounding cities and spend their money in that city. we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. how can san jose keep crying about having no money or “we need to increase our tax base” and then just give away this money. insanity

    • Putting dispensaries in industrial areas is a bad idea. People with handicaps need accessible settings that are likely to be harder to find there. Forcing patients to go to surrounding communities is neither wise financially nor is it any more than a mean spirited attempt to ban something that people in San Jose want and need.

  3. I once went to a friend’s house and the father and two young sons, about the early 20s age, were in the garage (door was open) smoking marijuana. I had such a weird look on my face that he went and got some papers to show me and told me they had prescriptions for them because they have a “medical condition”. What a croc OS. Too bad that marijuana cannot be dispensed by pharmacies, being that it is so medicinal. Doctors should be subjected to scrutiny if they are handing out prescriptions like candy. Doctors should be monitored for the number of scripts they write for mj, per month. Should all be on record.

      • Nahh, I doubt it. Someone like Mary would start tossing their “weird looks” around, and someone trying to forge a career in politics will take her seriously, and need a campaign boost, and BAM! Back to square one…

    • wow , just wow. Dr Sanjay Gupta was a die hard Anti Marijuana -crusader , and after some research and 2 award winning documentaries is now one of its biggest advocates . Yes a Neurosurgeon, states that there are medical uses for Marijuana .

    • I wouldnt show you anything its not like they were smoking crack or foin heroin ots just werd lady take it easy. Marijuana would put alot of other pills and othertype of medication out of buossness and the goververment are mad because they aint profiting from it i thonk the effects of alcohol and cigarettes areworser you should trip pf that with them googlie and a face like you smell some piss

  4. One would think the City would be smart enough to allow as many dispensaries as possible to continue to get their 10% cut. Because once marijuana is legalized, the local tax gravy train is over.

    The sheer hypocrisy on the part of the City is disgusting:

    “Medical Marijuana Collectives, Cooperatives, Dispensaries and Delivery Service businesses are not legal uses in the City of San Jose…Instead, the City is continuing enforcement action against any Collectives, Cooperatives, Dispensaries and Delivery Service businesses operating in the City according to the priorities set by the City Council. These priorities include focusing on those establishments that create a nuisance, fail to pay the Marijuana Business Tax and fail to comply with State law.”

    So, essentially, you’re breaking the law but keep giving us our 10%.

  5. OK – fine if its medical marijuana and it helps patients with illness and suffering from cancer, AIDS, etc then have it sold in pharmacies like every other medication. It would be much easier for authorities to watchdog Walgreens than all the little mom and pop pot stores. As well Walgreen’s would have to acquire their supply from permitted reliable sources which would help curtail the illegal grow houses.

    another thing. for people w/ true illness it is the compound THC that is their relieve and that can be administered in a number of ways besides just rolling up a fat one and smoking it. thus prescribed in pill form in a legitimate prescription bottle will allow police to better determine genuine use.

    • Hugh –

      I agree with you up to the point that you implied that the THC Compound is effective
      in pill form. Medical literature suggests that the oral form of THC is not as effective as smoking MJ. If a patient has a legitimate need and acquires the medication legally and legitimately, who are we to say that they can not smoke it?

      • All medicines, prescription or over the counter, is a known compound. The ingredients are specific and medicine is in a determined dose; there’s a label to whom it’s for and how often to use it. Usually paperwork explaining the drug is provided and in some cases a pharmacist even verbalizes the instructions. Marijuana has none of that. You have no idea how much TCH is in your dime bag, where it was grown or with what fertilizers. It’s not uncommon for “patients” to share with friends.

        Now, you’ll likely argue that MJ isn’t addicting and you can’t overdose, so controls aren’t necessary. We both know that’s not true however. So do medical professionals- that’s why it’s not prescribed in legitimate medical facilities, by respected doctors or sold in pharmacies. Dr. Gupta is a television personality first and a doctor second, his ratings require controversy.

  6. If doctors could diagnose people from crossed the street I am sure that they would do so and send us the bill. Did you ask a cop about how to diagnose medical conditions from crossed the street? What makes you think that you can do so? I get concerned when people practice medicine at a distance in a manner that they would never permit be done to themselves, even with a doctor involved. With over 40% of our population already having tried cannabis you might as well point fingers at about half of the people in the room if you’re looking for stoners.

    • To Dave K in Phoenix:: From “crossed the street”? Have another toke doper boy, but don’t get in your car.

  7. Why is it that the geniuses on the City Council and all the Progressive Big Government acolytes in One Party California just can’t leave the whole “medicinal marijuana” issue to the Food and Drug Administration.

    The FDA has the official government charter for regulating drugs. It’s their job.

    Ironically, the creation of the FDA was one of the legislative triumphs of the “Progressive Era”. (Where are those “Progressives” now?)

    If Big Marijuana wants to make the case that marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses, let them do the scientific studies and make their case to the FDA. Just like Pfizer, Smith-Kline, or any other pharmaceutical providers are required to do..

    The idea that shady, quasi-criminal drug pushers can make implied representations about the safety and efficacy of pot flies in the face of the Federal Food and Drug Act, and is dangerous to the public.

    There was a reason the Food and Drug act was passed. It was because fly by night patent medicine sellers were distributing dangerous crackpot nostrums that were poisoning, blinding, paralyzing, maiming, and otherwise damaging people.

    The creepy guy with the iPod earplug behind the counter at the medical marijuana dispensary has no idea what is in his batch of weed, where it came from, or how many laws were broken and people killed to bring it to market.

    It’s time for some “rule of law”, folks. The FDA is the law.

    The San Jose City Council are not drug regulators. Hell, they’re barely even grown ups.

    • >refers to cannabis activists as “Progressive Big Government acolytes”
      >opposes states exercising their rights under the Tenth Amendment to legalize cannabis

      Pick one.

  8. MJ is classified by the Feds in the same category as heroin and other opioids.. The hoops necessary to study it are too great with that classification. The first stop has to be the Justice Dept.–get them to lower the classification

    • I agree. The classification should be lowered. MJ effects are probably no worse than alcohol effects but since it isn’t legal, other than for medicinal use, there should be better oversight of the doctors who write the scripts and it should be sold through pharmacies. IMO.

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