Medical Marijuana Battle Continues

Correction: A previous version of this post made reference to a proposal written by Mayor Reed and co-sponsored by councilmembers Herrera, Liccardo and Constant. No such proposal exists. We regret the error.

The San Jose City Council once again fell short on Tuesday in its efforts to craft a plan to deal with the popularity of medical marijuana clubs in the city. Many of the ideas being proffered by city staff, Mayor Chuck Reed and councilmembers Rose Herrera, Sam Liccardo and Pete Constant were wildly ambitious, including items that no other municipality has tried in the 14 years since the passage of Prop 215.

For example: One proposal would not have allowed people staffing a dispensary to be paid in money; they would have to be paid in weed. Seriously. Another, for some unknown reason, banned the dispensing of “edibles” such as pot brownies, cookies or lollipops—an idea so bad that councilmembers could be seen cringing when a 70-year-old patient who does not smoke pointed out that she would be unable to take her medicine if it passed.

As has been widely reported, a proposal initiated by the mayor would have awarded licenses by random lottery or eBay auction—an idea that everyone finally seems to agree is just plain silly. Even worse was a plan to force every dispensary to grow 100 percent of its product on-site—an idea so naive it’s not even funny.

The council also discussed the proposal submitted last month by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, Herrera, Liccardo and Constant, which would have capped the number of dispensaries at 10 (there are now more than 100), a recipe for what would no doubt result in what the City Attorney’s office called “superstores” with inevitable parking and traffic nighmares.

Earlier, the council had dismissed an amendment penned by Pierluigi Oliverio and Don Rocha, which suggested a strict but simple set of regulations in place of the command-and-control model under consideration. Shortly before the six-plus-hour meeting ground to an end—when it was clear that the motion on the table was going nowhere—Rocha drew rueful laughter when he observed that they all would have been home already if a clear set of rules—rather than attempts to regulate the number of dispensaries and their product offerings—had carried the day.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. Political insiders know that the majority of these proposed ideas came from Sam Liccardo, who so desperately wants to position himself as the next mayor that he could not let the opportunity of a high profile issue pass him by without jumping into the fray headfirst. It doesn’t matter to him that some of his colleagues, like Pierluigi Oliverio, have been the leading voices on this issue for well over a year and has a much better understanding of the issue, so much so that they would never have proposed paying people in weed and doing away with edibles, in essence forcing people to smoke their medicine. Imagine denying a cancer patient medicine unless they smoked it. It takes a special kind of arrogance to think up that idea.

    Liccardo may want to rethink his strategy of trying to steal issues from every one of his colleagues, especially when the result is a six hour debate that goes nowhere and a 70 year granny having to wait the entire time to point out a fact that would have been glaringly obvious to someone that actually knew or cared about this issue. Instead, Liccardo put political ambition ahead of all other considerations.

  2. In nineteen months we will vote on another initiative to legalize the herb for anyone of adult age.  Will San Jose have figured out how to cope with medicinal distribution by then?

    • You’re right to be ‘doobie’ous but it’s a little unfair to be taking ‘pot’shots at the mayor. Admittedly, his views on this subject aren’t very ‘sensi’ble. Perhaps he needs a professional marijuana consultant- a ‘roach coach’?

    • Tom,

      Mayor Reed is a highly intelligent man. And, he is a good man, IMHO, who wants to do right by the City of SJ. He does seem a *bit* conservative which is what I believe we’re seeing now; shades of the old “Reefer Madness” daze.

      I wasn’t at the meeting so not sure about the outcome but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that if it didn’t go well tonight, that it will soon. Thank heaven’s Council member Pierluigi has the tenacity he does to keep prodding this along. SJ needs to start bringing in more revenue and patients need to have safe access.


  3. After watching that meeting I keep wondering if our city is controlled by organized crime, organized stupidity, or both.

    For example, in San Jose have pharmacies which dispense medication for sick people. In the entire city of San Jose there are 19 Walgreens. This is for people with all illnesses. There are already 6.5 times more medical marijuana clinics than Walgreens. In my Rose Garden Neighborhood, which has very little retail commercial space compared to much of the city, we already have five (breaking news from my twenty-something nephew…now six) medical marijuana dispensaries and just one Walgreens.

    Since marijuana can only treat a small subset of diseases, the population of people who need it for medical purposes is very, very small. If Walgreens dispensed it, that would serve those patients and the issue would be solved.

    But instead what we have is a new type of establishment that has very little to do with illness, and which have already proliferated into numbers that are far beyond the need of any population with actual illness. All you have to do is stand out in front of one of these places for about 10 minutes and you can see that almost no one who enters is sick. They mostly young men who have phony prescriptions to get high.

    The situation we have created is similar to what happened in Amsterdam in the Netherlands when it decriminalized marijuana. What they did, and what we can do also, is to restrict these businesses to certain zones, strictly regulate their ownership, and tax them verifiably.

    The Oliverio/Rocha proposal would achieve this goal in a de facto fashion by restricting these businesses to areas where they were more than 500 feet from residences. In my Rose Garden area, which is more than 90% residential, this would close all of the local dispensaries, because all of them are within 500 feet of residences.

    Given that we can’t do the obvious, which is to dispense marijuana to actually sick people from a pharmacy, I think we have to go the Amsterdam route. The Oliverio/Rocha proposal is a de facto solution. An even better solution might be to create a single Amsterdam-like zone that can be easily policed, taxed, investigated, and enforced. Who knows, if we did that, San Jose might become a major tourist destination, helping the economy and the ailing airport. From Capital of Silicon Valley to the Capital of Marijuana Tourism. We already have Hemp-Con at the Convention Center.

    Can’t you just imagine the farm fields of the Coyote valley brimming with row upon row of skunky indica sativa to serve our bustling little Amsterdam district, ringed by a massive all you can eat restaurant zone. I used to laugh at Cheech and Chong movies in the 1970’s, but now we actually living inside a Cheech and Chong movie, right here in San Jose.

    Truth is stranger than fiction.

    • You do realize that Walgreens is only 1 pharmacy chain?

      The yellow pages list 237 pharmacies in San Jose – over twice the number of dispensaries.

      The yellow pages also list 246 liquor stores and at last count there are over 1,450 outlets selling cigarettes in San Jose.

      If you really spend time in dispensaries as I have you will see that there are indeed a large number of people who need cannabis for medical treatment – but honestly, I really see no need to require a medical condition for marijuana use any more than there should be such a requirement for tobacco or alcohol – but this argument is beyond the abilities of the City Council to address since it is state regulated.

  4. Mayor Reed’s wife is a well-respected Oncologist, and all he has to do is spend a day in her work to see the ravaging effects of cancer.  It has been proven that medical cannabis can ease the nausea brought on by chemotherapy, and stimulate the hunger that the cancer treatment takes away.

    Responsible medicinal clinics treat these patients who might otherwise be treated as criminals.  Our City officials need to look beyond their own prejudisms and political ambitions to implement a practical set of rules in which the dispensaries can operate safely and securely. 

    Paying co-op employees in weed makes as much practical sense as paying McDonalds’ employees in hamburgers.

  5. Liccardo again shows he will do anything to advance his desired political career even if it hurts sick people, takes credit for others work, doesn’t understand the issues and is out of touch with people

    Liccardo’s dumbest ideas are:

    1) paying collective workers in weed so how does he expect they would pay rent or food other than illegally sell marijuana to non medical marijuana users for cash

    2) doing away with edibles forcing people to either buy edibles illegally on street or smoke which is potentially cancer causing and many have side effects that they do not have with edibles

    3) grow 100 percent marijuana in 10 superstores with known locations so either feds can easily raid and arrest sick people and care givers for distributing millions dollars marijuana while using city records in court or criminal gangs can frequently rob the superstores for cash and pot

    Liccardo is looking more and more like Gonzales, an out of town ambitious, win at any cost, vindictive politician who moved to San Jose only to advance his political career and if successful will move on to higher office taking no responsibility for the problems and scandals he created and harm he did

    • >>1) paying collective workers in weed so how does he expect they would pay rent or food other than illegally sell marijuana to non medical marijuana users for cash

      They would sell it back to the clubs they work for!  Or on the street.

      >>2) doing away with edibles forcing people to either buy edibles illegally on street or smoke which is potentially cancer causing and many have side effects that they do not have with edibles

      Personally, I think edibles should be allowed to be consumed on premise. The GI tract takes about an hour to transport, so technically anyone that *just* eats a edible on premise and leaves right away won’t be out of their skulls for an hour.

      Maybe a better idea would be to simply make sure that any edible packaging follows FDA regulations for being child-proof.

      >>3) grow 100 percent marijuana in 10 superstores with known locations so either feds can easily raid and arrest sick people and care givers for distributing millions dollars marijuana while using city records in court or criminal gangs can frequently rob the superstores for cash and pot

      I see the 126 clubs coming together to form VOLTRON! Not just one Voltron, but 10 of them!  The feds would be powerless against Voltrons fearless power.

      After Voltron kicks the feds ass, he’ll fly to Afghanistan and find Osama!  The wars will end and we’ll achieve peace!

      • Making people consume the “edibles” on premises is a complete non-starter, in that we can’t have 70-year-old cancer patients (or anyone else, for that matter) being inconvenienced by having to visit the “dispensary” on a daily basis.  Some sort of packaging & labeling regime is probably very much in order here.

        This may sound off-topic, but it really isn’t:  Does anyone know if they still sell those chocolate squares impregnated with laxatives (“Ex-Lax” brand, or otherwise)?  Because that’s very much what this is equivalent to, in many respects.  Might be interesting to look at how that product is packaged (assuming its still sold, that is).

      • Voltron is and will remain powerless against the Mexican cartels who ARE getting their piece of the action and the well armed robbers who are working and lurking around.

        The trouble SJ is having figuring out what to do is the same problem every other government entity is having. When you have a bunch of pot-heads organizing and getting ballot initiatives passed to legitimize their own lifestyle choices the product you get is the muddled pot-head conceived garbage that has everyone so befuddled today.  The bottom line here is not the “compassionate use” we all bought into. This is about selling weed and making a lot of money doing it.

    • here was an error in the original draft of this post, which might have contributed to a misimpression (see correction above). I do know that the three specific ideas you mention here did not come from Liccardo.

  6. My Gosh, it sounds as though the Mayor and Council were dropped on this planet from some “bizarro world.”  I can’t imagine what mentally challenged person could have proposed such ideas.  Cripes, set this aside and deal with the real problems we have in SJ!  If you’re real good, I promise I’ll get you a brand new piece of string.

  7. What is REALLY going on with San Jose Council medical marijuana debate ? 

    Looking at where city, politicians and county players stand you could infer that the small group of powerful political opponents who lost the battle to ban all existing collectives to Council majority last year, are now are working to eliminate 90% of collectives and want to make it very difficult and very costly for 10 remaining San Jose medical marijuana collectives.

    You will see in the future, if the proposed regulations, city oversight and high costs are approved, that 1 by 1 the 10-20 approved collectives either get closed by DEA, State or DA’s drug enforcement or go out of business because of very city high fees, taxes and too many unworkable time consuming expensive city regulations

    Then the medical marijuana opponents can then say “  we didn’t close them up it was their drug enforcement violations or they just went out of business.

    The opponents will then add “ It was not us, we just put in reasonable public safety conditions and taxes to operate in San Jose,  besides it cost city millions in legal costs from all medical marijuana lawsuits .

    What does it LOOK like to YOU after seeing unworkable and expensive city staff recommendations that will result in many lawsuits, majority Council were unprepared and unknowledgable about the issues so spin around for 6 hours and after reading what the political opponents said last December ? 

    The San Jose City Manager’s Office wants to take a hard line on medical marijuana, arguing that the city council should ban all 100 or so cannabis clubs in town and start from scratch with new regulations.”

    ” Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Frank Carrubba—who helped develop the city manager’s plan to ban the clubs—said he thought it was possible all the marijuana dispensaries in the state are illegal. Many in the audience responded with amazed laughter.

    State voters in 1993 passed Prop. 215, decriminalizing marijuana for the treatment of medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation. But pot advocates and foes alike say the law is the most vague of any medicinal marijuana statute in the country.

    It was from this legal foundation that many of the city administration’s recommendations sprang. City Manager Debra Figone suggested the council ban the existing dispensaries, then hold a lottery and select up to 10 collectives to legalize and heavily regulate.

    Each chosen collective would have to pay $104,645 registration fee. That money, Figone proposed, would pay for five additional city staff—including three police officers—to monitor and regulate the new collectives. “


    Do you draw the same conclusion that many do,  that San Jose staff regulations and very high costs are a back room political method with cooperation from DA’s office and drug enforcement to ban medical marijuana collectives allowed by state law in San Jose and not be politically blamed ?

  8. “Researcher Evan Mills’ study notes that cannabis production has largely shifted indoors, especially in California, where medical marijuana growers use high-intensity lights usually reserved for operating rooms that are 500 times more powerful than a standard reading lamp.

    The resulting price tag is about $5 billion in annual electricity costs, said Mills, who conducted and published the research independently from the Berkeley lab. The resulting contribution to greenhouse gas emissions equals about 3 million cars on the road, he said. (H/T”

    Dear City Council,
    As one who has long been concerned about the earth having a fever, I simply cannot stand idly by while the actions of these greedy marijuana barons cause our planet to warm and polar icecaps to melt. 

    For our children and our grandchildren’s sake please put a stop to this marijuana lunacy immediately.

    • Dave, let me summarize your regurgitated Fox News talking points into 4 words.

      Profits over polar bears.

      Think of all the effort and money the city has put in to developing renewable green energy and how it will be more than canceled out by these greedy, profit driven marijuana operatives.

      The global warming impact of marijuana grow operations will be equal to 3 million additional cars on the road.

      Dear City Council,
      In 30 years when Alviso is under a foot of water you don’t want to look back upon your decision to allow these greedy marijuana outfits to warm the planet.

      As Bush is known for Katrina, you will be known for Alviso unless you act now and do the right thing.

      Think globally.  Act locally. 
      Save our planet by stopping Big Marijuana.

      • Novice – while I applaud your sentiment your assumptions are entirely off base.

        1) I am as far from a Fox News groupie as they come – I am what is called a bleeding heart liberal

        2) Your numbers are wrong – did you even read my posting?

        3) Why do you assail them as ‘greedy, profit driven marijuana operatives’?  Seriously, what do you actually know about any of these people?  Have you met and talked with them? I have. Is every storefront in the city run by greedy capitalist pigs in your opinion?

        Let me summarize your mis-informed rhetoric in 3 words:

        Hyperbole over facts.

        The existence of these clubs does little to impact global warming:

        a) your facts are wrong as I pointed out (no one uses a 2-watt bulb)

        b) the growers were growing before the clubs existed and will continue to grow if they are gone – the clubs are merely a legalized distribution methodology

        c) the computer industry in Silicon Valley is equal to 125 million cars on the road – why are you singling out the little guy?

      • The science is settled – marijuana is an enormous source of greenhouse gases.

        “a single marijuana cigarette represents 2 pounds of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours.

        “The added electricity use [to an average home] is equivalent to running about 30 refrigerators,” Mills wrote. “Processed cannabis results in 3,000 times its weight in CO2 emissions.”

        Dear City Council,
        Here’s what we know about Big Marijuana and it’s minions.

        – Big Marijuana cares more about profits more than the safety of their most vulnerable, clinically ill patrons as evidenced by complete lack of security to protect them from being preyed upon by drug dealers.  “Police and merchants say they’ve seen the clinics’ clients selling their pot to the dealers for a profit.”

        – Big Marijuana cares more about profits than the planet.  Their total disregard for the worsening global warming crisis and the environment is something I would expect from Haliburton – and not from a San Jose city council sanctioned initiative.

        So what is the next shoe to drop when it comes to Big Marijuana?  Haven’t we already seen enough?

        I beseech and implore the city to reconsider it’s decision to allow Big Marijuana to operate in San Jose.

        • Hmmm – now you’re sounding suspiciously like Fox News…

          Say “The science is settled” and then issue a statement in quotes without citing any source.

          What exactly constitutes “Big Marijuana”?

          Who is “Mills” and what are his credentials, research stats and agenda?

          Are you calling for an end to cigarettes as well – I am quite certain that they produce an incredible amount of CO2 when compared to the miniscule amount of marijuana being smoked in comparison.

          I understand your point but what I don’t understand is why you are targeting such a minor offender when there are so many bigger contributors to the problem that you claim to care so much about.

          Your statement “Police and merchants say they’ve seen the clinics’ clients selling their pot to the dealers for a profit.” – this is kind of laughable – if you knew anything about cannabis sales you would know that buying it legally from a dispensary is the most expensive way to acquire it.  There would be no incentive for ‘dealers’ to buy product from a dispensary at 2-3 times what they can get it for elsewhere and they would be unable to sell it as the prices would have to be higher than the dispensary’s.  This is economics 101.

          Cannabis can be viewed somewhat akin to alcohol and cigarettes only they both have no medicinal value whereas cannabis has been proven to.  That being said cannabis should in my eyes be treated no differently but as long as you have some type of prohibition you will have some elements that exploit that and make illicit money off it.  But the dispensaries are the LEGITIMATE, LEGAL arm of this business – I am growing a little weary of your insistence at painting all of the industry with one broad stroke of criminality.

          Don’t be such a republican.  Maybe if you really found out what this was all about instead of attacking the issue from a single, myopic point of view you could become better informed and lend some insight into the discussion instead of these soapbox epithets.

        • Do you think the polar bears floating around on little bits of ice in the arctic care whether cigarettes or marijuana are the source of their plight?

          San Jose city council can’t do much more to affect cigarette policy but they sure as hell can act to reduce global warming from Big Marijuana by shutting down these operatives and sounding the alarm regarding the heretofore unknown danger to the environment posed by Big Marijuana.

          You refer to yourself a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ but when it comes to the environmental damage and global warming caused by Big Marijuana you’re nothing but a bleeding heart hypocrite.

    • Pretty short-sighted.

      Why is someone who grows cannabis for a living automatically a “greedy marijuana baron”?

      I guess those companies developing cancer medication are “greedy pharmaceutical barons”.

      Those companies destroying trees and printing books are “greedy paper barons”.

      …and so forth.

      It is always amazing to me how anyone engaging in an act that we do not perform ourselves is immediately labelled a subversive.

      BTW – the highest power grow light you can get is 1000 watts which would only be 500 times more powerful if you normally use a 2-watt bulb.  If you use a standard 100-watt bulb it is 10 times more powerful. 

      Let’s cut down on the hyperbole.

      Not to mention I am assuming that you posted your comment using a computer – why are you doing this if you are so concerned about the planet’s fever?  If we all shut down our computers we would save so much electricity that cannabis cultivation would be a drop in the bucket.  Again – we tend to see other people’s uses as excessive but our own as necessary, don’t we?

  9. Seems to me the collectives pay rent, buisness taxes, and advertising for their products. The mayor and his handlers decided that they want more cash and regulations to keep the collectives in the city.
    I keep thinking about Al Capone and other gangsters demanding protection money to keep the collectives “safe”.
    Curious what has the current mayor done to bring other revenue sources into San Jose? So far he lost the Tesla factory,and the GT race, at least now he can make the case for being Amsterdam West and develope the reputation as a go to place. How else are you going to attract tourism to the queen of the culdesacs?

    • San Francisco will always have marijuana at least as available as in San Jose, plus they’re San Francisco.  San Jose will never be a tourist destination, and that’s OK.  We just have to look at other ways to make money, and we have the absolute largest city-wide market, located between (well, sort of) Los Angeles and Chicago.  That’s the market we should look to be cultivating.

      I mean, marijuana is already popular, right?  Its not like people aren’t consuming it now.  They’re just consuming it on the black market.  The city would be well advised to get its 200,000 or so marijuana smokers paying that ten percent municipal excise tax the voters overwhelmingly passed last November.  Considering how we’re not all that far from being bankrupt.  And we ain’t gonna get bailed out by Sacramento or Washington; we’re on own here, and we haven’t got time to mess around with the fact some people don’t like the fact that other people like marijuana.

      Its legal to sell it in this city, at “dispensaries,” to those people who have the correct documentation (and anyone at all can get the correct documentation, if they are so inclined).  Those are the conditions that prevail.  Let’s take advantage of them.

  10. To: What is really going on,

    You ask if San Jose is trying by regulations and taxes drive the Medical Marijuana collectives out of San Jose ? 

    Yes, but that is no different then has been done to thousands of other local small businesses with city’s unreasonable, combersome, time consuming, unpredictable and highly political regulations and very high costs making San Jose the most business unfriendly city in Silicon Valley

    Look around at the many empty store fronts, offices and buildings then go to other cities and see the many businesses that were former San Jose businesses and jobs

    San Jose Council and city staff has created city’ss budget problems by driving out or discouraging businesses from locating or remaining in the city and but that has been well known for years

    Many city residents started or moved their business to other cities

    Look at the other successful local city’s lower unemployment and taxes rates but higher tax revenues and numbers businesses

    Council still does not get high taxes and unfriendly business attitudes is the # 1 cause of structural budget deficit, with #2 out of control employee costs and #3 wasteful spending

  11. Correction: A previous version of this post made reference to a proposal written by Mayor Reed and co-sponsored by councilmembers Herrera, Liccardo and Constant. No such proposal exists. We regret the error.

    Comment: Smart San Jose politicians have learned to not put in writing anything that could be used against them in future political campaigns after All Medical Marijuana Clubs are closed

Leave a Reply

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