San Jose could create a dedicated oversight office for local medical marijuana collectives, much like the Division of Gaming Control that monitors the city's two casinos.
A Division of Marijuana Control would offer administrative oversight of San Jose's pot clubs, Council members Raul Peralez, Ash Kalra and Chappie Jones write in a joint memo. The office would establish a streamlined authority over the ever-complicated regulation of collectives, according to the proposal up for review at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
For nearly two decades—going back to 1996, when California approved the Prop. 215 Compassionate Use Act—San Jose has struggled to provide a local regulatory framework for the industry, which remains legal statewide but outlawed on the federal level.
In 1998, San Jose approved its first-ever zoning regulations for pot clubs and tasked police with oversight and enforcement. But federal drugs agents raided collectives, forcing the industry back underground. The city failed to include cannabis club land-use regulations in its Zoning Ordinance update a few years later in 2001.
Senate Bill 420, signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, gave caregivers and patients a legal framework to establish collectives to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana. Four years later, the California Board of Equalization enacted a sales tax on pot clubs. Still, all those years since the feds quashed the industry in the late '90s, there were no pot clubs in San Jose.
Then, in 2008, the state Attorney General's Office handed down guidelines for running a collective in California. A year later, the U.S. Attorney General issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors directing them to focus on big-time drug traffickers rather than medical marijuana collectives abiding by state and local laws.
Those documents together spurred a green rush in San Jose, which was beset by financial cutbacks at the time because of the widespread economic recession. The city went from having zero collectives in 2008 to 57 by late 2010. The city imposed a voter-approved sales tax that fall, just as state Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, failed at the ballot.
A year later, the council imposed strict zoning regulations and a citywide cap of 10 pot clubs. But collectives repealed the ordinance by referendum. By the end of 2010, San Jose was home to more than 100 collectives.
For a few years, the city's pot clubs existed in the absence of local regulation until the council voted in a new regulatory framework last summer, which established strict distance and operational requirements. Now, the council is considering extending the deadline from July to September to bring pot clubs into compliance.
By April this year, 29 collectives won zoning approval from the city, though they still need to undergo an operational review to make sure all employees complete criminal background checks, among other requirements. Several clubs were denied permitting because they refuse to pay the city's business tax, arguing that it would be an admission of making a sale of a controlled substance—illegal under federal law. One club has been disqualified for refusing to pay the tax and four for failing to provide records to police. Twenty-four remain under review.
Santa Clara County has banned pot clubs from setting up shop in unincorporated areas. The county has also directed its Department of Environmental Health to regulate collectives that plan to manufacture edibles.
On the state level, five competing initiatives have been filed for the 2016 ballot. One of them, The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016, was submitted by San Jose dispensary owner Dave Hodges and pot lobbyist John Lee.
The proposal, filed on 4/20, bills itself as the first open-source initiative because of the way it crowd-sourced authorship.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 19, 2015:
- San Jose will host the League of California Cities for the group's annual conference from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 this year. It should be one hell of a party.
- The city's Salary Setting Commission recommended upping the mayor's yearly pay from $114,000 to $125,000 and raising salaries for council members from $81,000 to $92,000 a year. But Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Magdalena Carrasco, Kalra and Don Rocha said they should hold off on those pay increases until they end wage and benefit negotiations with the city's bargaining units.
- The Sharks have agreed to extend the team's lease of the SAP Center, which was set to expire in 2018, through 2040, quelling rumors that the NHL team was looking to move to a newer stadium. Here are the terms of the lease.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260