San Jose Approves New Limits on Pot Clubs

September 12, 2011

Bay City News Service, The Bay Citizen

The San Jose City Council today approved ordinances that will limit the number of medical marijuana collectives to 10 in limited commercial and industrial areas as part of final steps toward regulation in a nearly two year-long process. The 8-3 council vote was based on staff recommendations that also called for implementing a first come, first served registration process and restriction of marijuana cultivation to on-site only.

Councilmen Ash Kalra, Don Rocha, and Xavier Campos were opposed.

The action left a number of marijuana activists shaking their head in disappointment.

Lauren Vazquez, a civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Silicon Valley chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy organization, said the ordinances are too restrictive and limits access for patients.

"It's obvious the city is unwilling to put the time and energy to get something like this done," She said, adding that limiting the number of collectives to 10 for a city the size of San Jose is "unreasonable."

The council's action may not have pleased everyone, but it was significant in pushing the issue closer to regulation.

"We're dealing with a fairly complex topic," Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio acknowledged.

He said while the proposed ordinances are not perfect, they do pave the way for regulation and allow for future amendments.

Medical marijuana facilities are not currently allowed to operate in San Jose and those that have opened in recent years are doing so illegally and would not be grandfathered in under the ordinances, according to the mayor's office.

Components of the ordinances include a limitation on the number of collectives to no more than two per district and restricting the collectives from operating in sensitive retail areas, such as ground floors of shopping centers.

The council also approved a recommendation by Oliverio to assign a licensed physician or registered nurse to each collective.

Though the council generally agreed on limiting the number of collectives to 10, they were divided on the on-site, off-site issue.

Councilman Ash Kalra spoke in favor of a merit-based selection process and allowing collective operators to grow marijuana off-site. Councilman Sam Liccardo said establishing a criteria for such a process would be difficult.

He said limiting cultivation to on-site would be more manageable.

"Having a problem we can see and understand is always advantageous," Liccardo said.

Many of those concerns were voiced by activists during the public testimony. They said decentralized cultivation would lead to Costco-sized collectives.

"I think you can do better and I think we deserve more," Vazquez told the council.

Following the council vote, Vazquez passed around a sheet to gather signatures from activists. She said she and others would challenge the action via lawsuits or a referendum process.

The matter is tentatively planned to return to the council for a second reading on Sept. 27. If all goes according to plan, the ordinance would go into effect a month later and the 10 collectives would be registered in December or January.

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