Medical Cannabis Commission to Develop Standards for Permits

September 19, 2010

Gianna Albaum & Mary Susman, Daily Californian

In light of the Berkeley City Council's proposed ballot measure to create seven new "cannabusiness" facilities, the Medical Cannabis Commission - which will likely be reconstituted under the measure - met Thursday to develop a comprehensive rubric to evaluate applications for facility permits. In July, the council placed a measure on the November ballot that would allow for six 30,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation facilities and a fourth dispensary within the city. Anticipating a flood of applications, the council asked the commission to develop a set of standards by which it could evaluate applicants.

Kris Hermes, a commission member and spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, said the proposed two-tier process - whereby applicants send the commission a letter of intent and then a certain number are invited to submit complete proposals - was intended to help "weed out" unfeasible proposals, adding that creating a fourth dispensary would open a "Pandora's box" of applicants.

Though Thursday's meeting was largely a brainstorming session, Amanda Reiman, a commission member and research director for Berkeley Patients Group, said she expected next month's meeting to yield a rubric for the council.

Commission member Jorge Galan suggested that the rubric evaluate the viability of applicants' plans.

"(Applicants) can promise the moon," he said at the meeting. "How are they actually going to implement the plans?"

The commission is also considering using a point system to rate applicants in several designated categories such as quality control, safety and environmental sustainability.

Reiman said she and Wendy Cosin, deputy planning director for the city, will review their notes and come to the next commission meeting on Oct. 21 with a summary and clarification of Thursday's discussion.

The recommendations the commission brings to the council are not binding and may be undermined as current members can be superseded if the ballot measure passes, especially since the commission now largely consists of "cannabusiness" representatives and medical marijuana activists. In a June interview, Mayor Tom Bates likened the makeup of the commission to "the fox guarding the henhouse."

The ballot measure would bring the commission under the city's purview, requiring that each of the nine commission members be appointed by a council member.

Though the new commission will continue to have two dispensary representatives, Hermes said it was not clear how much of the membership would stay the same.

However, Reiman said the change was merely an attempt to include more voices in the development of local cannabis policy, adding that she supports the reconstitution of the commission.

"They're just evolving the commission into what other city commissions already are," she said.

Hermes said the change would grant the city more control than before because the council would not only choose the members of the commission, but also select the recipients of the licenses.

"Hopefully (we can develop) a set of recommendations based on a merit-rating system that will help guide city council members in making what is hopefully an objective and not subjective decision on who gets licensed," he said.

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