New limits in Oakland for medical pot clubs

February 04, 2004

Jim Herron Zamora, San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland will issue business licenses to four nonprofit medical marijuana vendors and force eight others to close or face possible prosecution.

The new limits adopted by the Oakland City Council will break up the cluster of downtown marijuana clubs -- collectively known as 'Oaksterdam' -- by forcing them to operate at least 1,000 feet apart.

During a six-hour meeting Tuesday night, the council voted to adopt new regulations on marijuana clubs, which have recently sprouted on the northern edge of downtown Oakland.

Effective June 1, Oakland medical marijuana clubs operating under state Proposition 215, approved by voters in 1996, must apply for business licenses. The city will select four vendors from among the applicants.

'We support compassionate use for patients but we needed to set up some rules that work for the entire city,'' said Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who co-sponsored the measure with Councilwoman Jean Quan.

Both of them agreed to several amendments to the proposal at the request of critics, including councilwomen Nancy Nadel and Jane Brunner, who both ultimately voted for the measure.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks was the only opponent, saying she felt that the city was forcing the plan onto the medical marijuana community.

Cannabis patients will be forbidden to smoke pot or consume marijuana brownies or cookies in clubs where they buy it. The council agreed to consider allowing patients to eat marijuana-laced food on site.

The new rules also limit each patient to owning 8 ounces of dry marijuana, six mature plants and a dozen immature plants.

After six months, the city will review the legislation and could make changes. Nadel said she hopes her colleagues will agree to allow more than four clubs, which she feels are not enough for the city's 3,000 medical users.

'I'm pro-regulation and I'm pro-registration, but the details of this regulation are going to create problems,'' said Jeff Jones, executive director of Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative and one of 100 people who spoke out against the proposal. 'The regulations will hurt patients.''

Other medical marijuana advocates complained they were left out of the process to develop the regulations.

'The City Council's new cannabis ordinance is an example of making laws like baloney,' said Dale Gieringer, California Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

'Hopefully a workable accommodation will be reached,' he said.

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