San Jose: Deadlock means medical marijuana ordinance will return
By Eric Kurhi – MercuryNews.Com
SAN JOSE — Requests for more information and a deadlocked vote kept the city’s proposed medical marijuana ordinance in play but not passed on Tuesday, the third time the matter has been postponed after hours of debate.
On Tuesday the City Council split 5-to-5 on the basics of the ordinance, with Councilman Pete Constant absent. It would have set buffer zones for dispensaries, keeping them at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day care centers, libraries and community centers, and 150 feet from homes. They also would not be allowed to set up shop in what the city considers premier business parks: North San Jose, Edenvale and International Business Park. It included clauses barring minors from entering facilities, limiting hours of operation and making anyone with criminal background ineligible from working in the industry.
Mayor Chuck Reed said it would balance federal requirements for strict controls with patients’ needs to have access to their medicine.
“Right now all the dispensaries in San Jose are illegal, but we’re proposing to allow them in certain zones as long as we control the bad behavior,” he said just before the meeting. “We had some bad actors, we have to control that.”
Before the split vote, another aspect of the ordinance that would have required collectives to grow their own product in San Jose — a clause that was cause for consternation among collectives — was sent back to staff for further review.
Yes votes were cast by Mayor Chuck Reed, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and Councilmen Sam Liccardo, Johnny Khamis and Pierluigi Oliverio.
Councilman Donald Rocha pushed for a failed substitute motion that he said would be more palatable for cannabis clubs, and said it’s important to work with the business side to get something mutually agreeable.
“What’s in front of us is too restrictive — we might lose that sweet spot,” he said, adding that he’s been in contact with collectives and found them to be “generally reasonable.”
The motion, supported by Councilman Ash Kalra, was voted down by the other members. Councilwoman Rose Herrera took the most hard line approach, asking for an outright ban instead of regulations, a motion seconded by Councilman Kansen Chu.
“When people voted for compassionate use, they did not intend it to mean that dispensaries would set up shop everywhere,” Herrera said. “We need to make up our minds if we want San Jose to be the Capital of Silicon Valley or the Capital of Marijuana Central.”
Reed said that’s too much — medical marijuana groups have already collected signatures for a November referendum that if passed would dictate regulations for the city, and such an all-or-nothing battle would be tough to win.
James Anthony of the Sensible San Jose committee of patients, activists and dispensaries said he had 38,000 signatures ready to turn in Tuesday morning but was waiting to see what the council did.
“I’m encouraged,” he said before the meeting. “They seemed to be grappling with important aspects for the first time in four years, and asking hard questions of staff.”
After the draw vote, he did not immediately know whether they would be turning in the signatures for the referendum and would consult with the Sensible San Jose board.
It raised the specter of 2011, when the council voted for dispensary limits only to back off them when a referendum by medical pot advocates qualified for the ballot. Since then, however, a Supreme Court ruling and guidelines issued by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office have given cities new authority to regulate pot shops.
Reed said Tuesday that he believes voters won’t be swayed to back the referendum as long as the city has a reasonable pot policy in place.
“I’m not too worried,” he said. “I don’t think the people of San Jose would support a loosey-goosey system that doesn’t abide by federal law. I’ll happily lead the opposition against it if it gets on the ballot.”