Berkeley to vote on marijuana, prostitution

June 22, 2004

Kristin Bender , Alameda Times-Star

BERKELEY -- An initiative to make Berkeley the first city in the nation to decriminalize prostitution and another to give medical marijuana patients more access to cannabis have qualified for the November ballot, the Berkeley city clerk confirmed Tuesday.

The Sex Workers Outreach Project, backers of Angel's Initiative, and a group of cannabis club operators sponsoring the Patients Access to Medical Cannabis Act have each collected the 2,077 signatures needed to put their issues on the Nov. 2 ballot, City Clerk Sherry Kelly said.

The City Council will consider both items at a July meeting, Kelly said, but initiative proponents aren't optimistic the council will rubber-stamp the controversial plans.

Both require a simple majority to pass in November, and organizers said Tuesday they believe Berkeley voters will support their causes.

Don Duncan is the campaign manager for the Alliance of Berkeley Patients, a group of cannabis club operators who will soon kick off a campaign to pass the Patients Access to Medical Cannabis Act. Duncan said his group collected some

3,600 signatures in just over a month to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The initiative:

Replaces the city's 10-plant medical cannabis limit with a patient's 'personal needs,' defined by a doctor and the patient.

Sets up a peer review committee to oversee the safety and operations at the four dispensaries.

Amends zoning ordinances to allow for the issuance of use permits to qualified applicants.

Calls on the city to take over distribution of medical cannabis if the federal Drug Enforcement Administration closes the city's four dispensaries.

The City Council in April tabled Councilmember Kriss Worthington's proposal to increase the number of allowed medical cannabis plants from 10 to 72 following concerns about increased crime and questions about how much dry marijuana one plant produces.

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