Councilmembers Threaten Medical Pot Ban

If a framework for regulating medical marijuana distribution in San Jose is not put in place by the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmembers Nancy Pyle and Kansen Chu will likely make a move to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries in San Jose. After the council could only agree on a few land use and zoning recommendations last week, Pyle has suggested shutting down all clubs. Chu’s proposal goes even further.

Pyle wants to see substantial progress made on Tuesday; otherwise, she says, it is time to move on to other matters.

“By continuing to debate this issue without reaching a majority vote on a regulatory framework, we are letting the status quo continue,” Pyle writes. “This is unacceptable.”

Chu has taken a much stricter stance, suggesting that all discussion on medical marijuana be halted so the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors can study the matter and instruct the council on what it should do. Like Pyle, Chu says a ban on collectives should go into effect in the meantime.

Mayor Chuck Reed and most councilmembers have publicly lamented that action to limit collectives in the city, which now number more than 100, should have been taken sooner. City officials have also admitted that the legal complexities of regulation are overwhelming because of contradictions between state and federal law, as well the enforcement of those laws. The decision by voters last fall to tax medical marijuana in San Jose has not made implementation any easier, as the city still considers every collective as operating outside the law.

There is still reason to believe a framework can be formed, though. Councilmembers Ash Kalra, Pierluigi Oliverio and Donald Rocha have come together to submit a memo that contains a nuanced approach to curbing collectives without the use of a lottery or auction. This memo builds on a version submitted by Rocha and Oliverio last week.

Oliverio says enacting an outright ban on collectives because councilmembers are weary from talking about the issue is “problematic,” because of the threat of inviting lawsuits against the city.

“We’ve been talking about pensions for four years,” he says. “I don’t see why this is any different. We spent more time on Little Saigon. Let’s take bite-size morsels of what we agree on.”

Pyle’s proposal is considered unlikely to pass, though, as her plan falls under an urgency ordinance and would require a super majority (greater than 2/3) in support.

“I think the council is going to pull together and get it done,” Oliverio says. “Restricting access to those who truly need it and putting it underground to the suburban drug dealer is not the way to go.”

Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen has also offered up her own proposal ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, writing that a cap of 10—as she and Councilmembers Pete Constant, Rose Herrera and Sam Liccardo suggested in March—is too small. Nguyen writes that a cap of 20 at most would be better, with no more than two collectives per district.

Liccardo says the proposal put forward by Nguyen is “actually not far apart at all” from the suggestions being pushed by Kalra, Oliverio and Rocha. Whether that’s true remains to be seen, but clearly certain councilmembers are tiring of the debate over medical marijuana.

“The budget is absolutely the elephant in the room,” Liccardo says. “There’s an enormous amount of anxiety on the floor that were not focusing on that issue. For every minute we’re talking about cannabis we’re not talking about the potential of hundreds of employees being laid off.”

Still, Liccardo says there is almost no chance a ban on collectives will pass on Tuesday.

Two important hurdles that hindered progress at last week’s meeting have been cleared up in a supplemental memo drafted by City Attorney Richard Doyle. Instead of suggesting collective employees be paid only in cannabis, the city is recommending they now receive a salary. Also, the revised ordinance allows for edible products as well as lotions and ointments to be distributed.

A few key issues that could continue to cause hangups, however, will be the city’s definition of a “sale” versus a “contribution” (which is important in defining if collectives are, in fact, non-profit), as well as how a cap on permits would be implemented, and whether or not collectives will have to cultivate all cannabis on-site.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. The council has show an inability to resolve this issue through the current methods. Although I don’t expect it to be an option on the table tomorrow, I have recommended the council create a community task force on cannabis. This task force could be the first line to resolve community complaints/issues, identify problem locations which merit enforcement actions, as well as aid in the creation of the application & permit. This would help the city move forward, and free the council to focus on the budget and other important issues they face, while at the same time allowing the city to collect revenue from the Measure U tax during this process.

    Unfortunately some on the council feel a complete ban to be a good option, and the Mayor has stated he is against the idea of a community task force..

    Anyway you look at it, the talk of a total ban is ridiculous when in less then 2 weeks all cannabis clubs in San Jose will be required to pay their first Measure U taxes. Tomorrow should be fun!

    The Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition ( is meeting tomorrow morning,11am @ the UFCW Local 5 meeting hall 240 S Market St San Jose, CA 95113. Anyone interested in seeing San Jose come up with a dignified & reasonable process to resolve these issues should attend.

  2. > City officials have also admitted that the legal complexities of regulation are overwhelming because of contradictions between state and federal law, as well the enforcement of those laws.

    What?!  Marijuana is illegal under federal law?

    Who knew?

    Why didn’t somebody mention this?

    Now we look like a bunch of morons.

    Why are you looking at me like that?

  3. I sympathize with the Mayor and City Council that this process of providing guidance and establishing a regulatory framework for cannabis collectives is arduous. I applaud their willingness to tackle this very controversial issue.

    And, from a resident perspective, finding new revenue streams is an important part of the budget process. So, in addition to dialoging on how to save City Staff jobs, they must also find ways to pay for those jobs as well as maintain our city services. Truly, it’s daunting, but the 7% marijuana dispensary tax residents recently voted on via Measure U is one such revenue stream.

    I encourage the Mayor and City Council to persevere tomorrow on this specific issue and hope they know they have people supporting their efforts and cheering them on.

    My .02


  4. Dear Councilmembers Chu and Pyle,
    Hold your ground.  But if you have to compromise do so only if the following conditions are met.

    – a 500% tax is levied to pay for police as marijuana “clubs” are crime magnets.
    – require that all marijuana clubs prove that they are carbon neutral and offset 100% of their global warming greenhouse gas emissions.
    – All councilmembers should be drug tested and results publicized prior to the final vote.  Only under the influence could someone dream up and advocate this lunacy.

  5. The medical marijuana initiative was a poorly crafted piece of legislation that used the sympathetic image of those dying and in chronic pain to gain votes. Instead the law has “legalized” the sale of marijuana to anyone who walks in the door. To qualify as needing marijuana does not require a legitimate medical reason. You can get a card if you say you suffer from stress. In fact most dispensaries will help provide you the necessary answers to qualify. The operations have become fronts for drug dealing and money laundering. Shut them down. Let the pot heads go to Oakland to get their medicine, I mean weed.

  6. Bill:


    It’s a mystery to me why the therapeutic big govenment class is so clueless about why people don’t trust big government.

    EVERYONE knew that the “medical” marijuana initiative was just a sham to legalize pot.

    The “medicinal” part was just so much “wink, wink .. look, I’m getting pot just by pretending to be sick”

    “Boy the government was REALLY stupid to buy that line of BS, and the stupid voters were even STUPIDER to fall far such an idiotic lamebrain scam.”

    “Us really smart, really intellectual, really liberated drug users can really put one over the brain dead TV besotted masses anytime we want because they’re so stupid and we’re so smart.”

  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 unknowledegable 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. Memo to city council: Do your damn job.

    If the council accepts the Pyle/Chu “head in the sand ban” the likely result will be a well-funded citizen’s initiative that will impose a much more liberal ordinance on the city than what the council is considering.

  9. The Mayor and Council are out of order…  I think Pete Constant may have been smoking dope when he cured his serious back problem, enabling him to flop around and wrestle some kid on cam, can you say “fraud.”  Whats with throwing a San Jose Citizen out of a “Public Meeting ???”  And Who paid for the Pay Job Cop?  I’d like to see Constant try and cut me off and toss me out of a meeting.