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.