SJ City Council Restricts Locations For Pot Clubs

June 21, 2010


After months of debate, the San Jose City Council voted Tuesday night to limit the allowable location for medical marijuana dispensaries to 500 feet away from any schools, day care, parks and libraries. The decision means some of an estimated 60 dispensaries open in the city will need to either close or move.

One such medical marijuana club, the Holistic Pain Management Institute, is located next door to a school for some 60 children who attend the Vietnamese-American Academy.

"It's too close to my school and too close to my kids and that's not a good sign," said the school's Daniel Hong. "They may have some negative influence."

The cannabis club said it has received no complaints and wants to be a good neighbor.

"We are ready to comply with any of the rules and regulations that they have," said Michelle Hovey of the Institute. "We're just looking for a place in the community."

The vote by the San Jose City Council marked the local government's first step in regulating medical pot dispensaries. The council unanimous voted dispensaries cannot be located within 500 feet of schools, day care, parks and libraries. Those already operating in such a location will have to shut down or move.

"500 feet is roughly two football fields," said Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio. "It's a very large city block, so it's where our professional staff felt it was an appropriate number. If you did a thousand [feet], you would have very few locations to provide it."

The council spent the afternoon listening to suggestions from those in the medical cannabis community, as well as their attorneys. City officials are also studying where to zone dispensaries, how to regulate them and if they should be taxed.

The city council also decided to give voters in November the opportunity to decide if these dispensaries should be taxed.

The decisions were just the beginning of drafting an ordinance that would restrict and regulate operations.

Some medical marijuana interests say the proposed law appeared to be draconian, citing one element that would mandate the number of dispensaries in this city.

"A cap of ten [clubs] is unacceptable for a city of over a million," said Lauren Vazquez of Americans for Safe Access. "With at least 20,000 patients in our community, requiring all cannabis to be cultivated on site is impracticable."

As least two lawyers in attendance Tuesday night said they were ready to file lawsuits depending on what San Jose passes.

Abel Cisneros, a medical marijuana user who lives in San Jose, said he was worried about the immediate effects of regulating where he buys his marijuana.

"If they're forced to close, I will have to travel a little bit further away," said Cisneros. "And that really sucks because the pain I feel, I need to have my medication when I need it."

The city said the enforcement of the 500-feet rule will begin by next month and that as many as seven clubs will be affected.

Tuesday night's vote was a land use issue. The passing of the medical marijuana ordinance was scheduled for August 3rd.

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