Facing a vocal barrage from a well-educated cross-section of San Jose's 55,000 cannabis patients, the city's leaders kicked the can down the road to June 22, voting to postpone regulating dispensaries until August.
"This is the good part," said dispensary operator Stephen DeAngelo after the marathon, six-hour hearing. "It's another one of those days that makes me incredibly proud to be an American living in California in a place that's really about making local democracy work."
The council was considering permitting at random just ten of the city's seventy or so clubs, after charging each a $95,000 registration fee. Dispensaries would then have to turn patient records over to the chief of police, possibly violating federal privacy laws. The community came out to bash each staff recommendation.
"Do not put a young woman's name on a list and give it to the police," begged patient advocate Darlene Welch. "She is 23 years old. She has no hope then."
Oakland attorney James Silva said the proposed ordinance would violate the US Constitution, and that he was ready to go to court.
"The proposed ordinance is draconian, but some of the provisions ... would violate the Fifth Amendment," he said. "This is a community that wants to reach out to you and is hoping you'll reach back."
After an exasperated Mayor Chuck Reed brought the hearings to a head, the city council voted unanimously on Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio's motion to push back any rule-making until August 3, and discuss more about what they want to do. The council ordered police to focus enforcement on dispensaries open within 500 feet of schools and residences. The council also moved toward putting a medical cannabis tax on the November ballot.
DeAngelo said the result was a more reasonable series of actions than those recommended by the citys attorney and chief of police.
"I think city staff has been responding to pressure by the city attorney to craft the most restrictive possible ordinance," he said. "Fortunately, within the city council exists substantial support for protection of patient rights."
While 354 California cities have either passed temporary moratoriums on dispensaries or avoiding the topic, and 141 cities have bulldoggishly banned clubs, only 41 have passed regulations. San Jose's were set to be among the most expensive and high-maintenance.
San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle said state laws give the city enough wiggle room to be harsh. The ordinance is a work-in-progress based on limited information, he said, and the council could modify it today.
"A lot of this is experimental," Doyle said. "I'm usually in favor of local control but if there was ever a time for the state to step in and provide some rules, this is it."
Doyle said the city lacks basic details such as how many dispensaries it has. It also doesn't know how the chief of police would oversee the $95,000-a-ticket lottery. "I don't think we thought that far down the line," he said.
Citizens are not driving the process either. Neighborhood complaints have led to the closure of just one dispensary, Doyle said. The proposed rules are coming from the planning and the police department, who say the huge fee would cover the costs of administering clubs.
"It's a huge cost," Doyle said. "The question to the council will be: Do they want to have full cost recovery or do they want to have a fee that they believe — I won't say is more reasonable — but something that is less than $95,000."
Seeds & Stems
Last week, the Associated Press detailed how medical cannabis can be used in messy divorces to gain full child custody. Medical marijuana patient group Americans for Safe Access said they've fielded dozens of calls, many from fathers losing access to their kids due to having a medical cannabis prescription. ... California's Fall ballot measure to legalize and tax cannabis for over-21 users heads into a heated summer this week with a proud new milestone: more than 100,000 fans on social networking site Facebook. Conversely, the "Public Safety First" opposition campaign has six fans. Tax Cannabis 2010 spokesperson Dan Newman said the online army is "translating into motivated volunteers, donors, increased voter turnout, and 100K people spreading the word to their friends and neighbors with a passion and intensity that our opponents' lonely six fans will never match. This passionate, motivated grassroots army will be able to counter millions of dollars in slick and deceitful TV ads from the opponents." Tax Cannabis 2010 — headquartered in Oakland — closed a $50,000-round of online fund-raising Wednesday June 30, telling followers: "We all know that the press, politicos, and our opponents will use our fundraising numbers as a barometer to measure the grassroots strength of this campaign. So it's critical for us to show them that we are raising the resources we need to win in November." ... A Harvard economics professor endorsed legalization in The National Review, where he also said that Tea Partiers must support ending the Drug War, which is Big Government at its worst. ... The war on drugs is waged by joyless prudes, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B published the findings of researcher Robert Kurzban, who noted: "If you were to measure people's political ideology, religiosity and personality characteristics, you can predict to some degree how people feel about recreational drugs. But if, instead, you just measure how people feel about casual sex, and ignore the abstract items, the predictions about people's views on drugs in fact become quite a bit better."