Forced to Close, Cannabis Club Converts to Legalization HQ

One of San Jose’s longest-running cannabis clubs will close its second location, another casualty of the city’s strict new zoning requirements.

But Dave Hodges, owner of the All American Cannabis Club (A2C2), will keep his lease and flip the defunct collective into a campaign headquarters for a grassroots statewide legalization effort.

San Jose passed an ordinance in summer 2014 that wiped out about 80 percent of the city’s pot clubs by restricting their proximity to schools, homes, churches and other dispensaries.

The new rules forced Hodges to close his first location on Stockton Avenue after six years in business. His second shop on Bascom Avenue remained open while he fought the city in court. Earlier this month, however, a judge granted the city’s injunction to shutter the remaining branch because it’s too close to a church.

According to the city, Hodges never applied for a zoning code verification or pay the city’s marijuana business tax, which knocked him out of the running for compliance.

“The council gave the collectives ample time to find sites that met the zoning requirements, and even more time to build out those sites and relocate their businesses in order to comply with the ordinances adopted in June 2014,” city spokesman Dave Vossbrink said. “Some, like Mr. Hodges, chose not to do so, and therefore are illegal under city law.”

Though exhausted from a drawn-out legal battle with the city, Hodges plans to channel all his energy into putting a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot.

“It’s unfortunate the city has decided to give money to street drug dealers and limit access for medical marijuana patients,” he said. “With the small number of locations, unlawful age restrictions, and constraints on available products, there is more ‘weed sold on the streets’ in San Jose than ever before. This needs to change, and full legalization is the only answer.”

Replacing A2C2: Americans for Policy Reform (AFPR), a group of grassroots organizers backing a citizen initiative called the Marijuana Control Legalization and Revenue Act.

Proponents of the legalization measure, dubbed the MCLR for short, will use the Bascom Avenue location for volunteer briefings, training, a call center, voter registration efforts and a meeting space.

“There are no guarantees in 2016,” said AFPR director John Lee. “Everyone who supports marijuana legalization needs to visit the headquarters. Supporters will learn how to get directly involved in supporting legalization in California.”

The MCLR is one of about 20 legalization initiatives filed or soon to be filed. A challenge for reformers heading into 2016 will be to unite around a single initiative. But marijuana advocates and drug policy groups are split over initiative language addressing issues like job discrimination and how strictly to regulate a future recreational market.

There’s a lot of money on the line, with former Facebook president and Napster founder Sean Parker, and big-time policy groups ready to mobilize behind what they deem the campaign with the best shot at the polls.

For activists who have spent years raising the political likelihood of legalization, there’s some concern that their efforts will be pushed aside by billionaires, millionaires and policy groups with their own agendas.

A ballot measure penned by Reform California and backed by veteran pot proponents has been touted as one with the winningest chance, but has yet to score a major funder. Adding more friction to an already contentious field, Parker went ahead and drafted his own initiative, which, according to the Sacramento Bee, some longtime marijuana advocates consider overly restrictive.

Hodges and Lee said the opening of the new campaign headquarters in San Jose is a direct call to all other groups and donors to unite around a single measure.

The MCLR is considered a grassroots initiative, stemming from four years of work by thousands of Californians who co-authored and crowd-sourced the language legalizing medical, industrial and adult use. Click here to read the full text of the measure.

The AFPR office is located at 3131 S. Bascom Ave., in San Jose. Hours will be from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday. To volunteer, call John Lee at 408.500.2869 or email at [email protected]. The group’s website is www.AFPR.us. The MCLR website is www.MCLR.us.

This story has been updated.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

8 Comments

  1. The new rules forced Hodges to close his first location on Stockton Avenue after six years in business. His second shop on Bascom Avenue remained open while he fought the city in court. Earlier this month, however, a judge granted the city’s injunction to shutter the remaining branch because it’s too close to a church.

    Jesus Jen, this is so misleading.

    Dave got into hot water for not paying the city tax on his MMJ sales. Dave argued that tax would be considered a sale, therefore against California law.

    Right now I’m sidegigging for a local club that is just a mom and pop like Dave’s. Why are they still open? Simple, they followed my safe and sage advice of, “Just give the city whatever they want” When they first opened, we considered hiring Hodges as a consultant, but his price of [email protected] was too steep, and in retrospect wasn’t worth the money considering he’s closed now.

    Who would have thought my advice would be better?

    We’re jumping through hoops to get operations at the new site up to city standards, but the inspectors, Wooly from the SJPD, and everyone else involved has been extremely helpful. They want us to open. When they inspect, they’re extremely courteous and instead of slamming us for doing things the wrong way, they walk us through it step by step.

    The other 80% of the clubs that closed were nothing the city needed. We had people with ties to gangs, we had people that if this had been a bar or pharmacy license, would have been in equally hot water with those governing agencies for things they had done in the past.

    I feel bad for Dave, but don’t leave out parts of the story just to slant or influence public opinion. That’s not unbiased reporting, that’s propaganda.

    • Robert, The injunction had nothing to do with our tax stance. It was solely based on the distance from a church. Of the over 60+ clubs closed by SJ, all but 5 were paying the tax… that’s the truth. If you would like, I can show you the injunction order. Paying the city’s tax, had nothing to do with who could stay open. All the closures were based on “Land Use”, and nothing else.

      • Dave it had everything to do with you being up on their radar. Had you been cooperative with the city, they wouldn’t have left you with no recourse on the zoning. Many of the clubs that are left have worked in the spirit of cooperation with the city, not against.

      • Funny, I seem to recall the folks campaigning for votes to open collectives in SJ were unanimous in promising to paying their taxes since it would prove their desire to be legal and responsible businesses.

        It wasn’t long after voters approved openings clubs in SJ that there was majority of clubs that made good on their promise to pay the associated taxes. 3, 4 5 , 6 quarters later… very few of the rapidly multiplying clubs were paying.

        Is any body surprised? Owners, members (whatever you want to all them) were are and will continue to make lots of money in the name of separating weak individuals from their cash in the name of “helping people access medicine”

        Most are no better than the 1%ers that Occupy protests…maybe even worse.

  2. Don’t think a single story could cover the assorted complexities of San Jose’s dispensary scene. The complaint may or may not be valid, but consider the source in San Jose and elsewhere as existing operators scramble to the front of the line for state AND local licenses. Maybe MMRSA will help sort the weed from the chaff, maybe not, but either way its late passage has done more than anything else to upset the legalization apple cart. If ReformCA and other advocates are running a little late to the legalization party, it’s mainly because the Legislature was hell-bent on crashing it.

    In contrast, MCLR is a crowdsourced legalization initiative that draws important lessons from San Jose, Fresno, Oakland, and the Emerald Triangle. It slows the roll of “local control” freaks that want to ban first and ask questions later, aligns rather nicely with MMRSA in other respects, and drills down into several other important issues. I’m not crazy about the ill-defined “neighborhood standards” for personal cultivation vs. hard plant counts, but we all know what cities and counties did with the previous 6-plant standard … they either trashed it or blew it up, with lots of help from 99-plant farmers with “grower’s letters” posing as “patients with greater medical needs.”

    It’s nice to see San Jose make some noise in the legalization debate, and I’m looking forward to hearing much more. Whether MCLR flies or not remains to be seen, but Hodges and Lee deserve all due credit for the attempt.

  3. Dave, keep standing out and speaking your mind. Our city is failing on this issue. I’ve been seeing so many more drug deals going on in my neighborhood since the local clubs closed. You lead, we will follow. Let me know how I can help.