CALIFORNIA: After failed past attempts to regulate medical marijuana collectives in San Jose, the city should take up the issue again, says Councilman Don Rocha—just as a voter initiative to legalize the stuff cleared for signature gathering.
“I believe that regulation is urgent not only because of the quality of life and public safety concerns I’m hearing from residents, but also because of concerns about who is buying marijuana at dispensaries,” Rocha writes in a memo submitted to the Rules and Open Government Committee.
Kids are buying it to smoke at school, Rocha says, crediting that allegation to the city’s gang prevention taskforce. If that’s the case, some of these kids in question are skirting the rules that require buyers to present a cannabis card and an ID to prove they’re over the age of 18. There’s already an enforceable law for that.
The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in 2011 that limited the number of pot clubs in town to 10 and required they grow all their medicine on-site. Opponents of the ruling drummed up enough signatures in a referendum effort that the city scrapped the plan, leaving the 100-plus dispensaries caught between a federal law that bans them and state laws that protect them.
That left San Jose cops to draw down enforcement to collectives that cause the most problems and garner the most complaints. Some have since closed for not paying taxes an/or operating too close to schools, violating state law.
Once a state Supreme Court ruling in May reinforced the right of municipalities to ban or regulate dispensaries, the city upped its cannabis tax from 7 to 10 percent. The bump was projected to generate an additional $1.5 million revenues for a total year-end projection of $5.4 million. The council also directed city staff to come up with a plan on how to regulate the businesses, given the court’s confirmation in local agencies’ right to enforce collectives.
Councilmembers at a Sept. 10 meeting directed staff to resume work on enforcement efforts, but they didn’t say anything about picking up work on drafting a regulatory framework, Rocha points out.
“Given the urgent need for regulation, I think we need to discuss when we want to tackle that issue,” he says in the memo.
The statewide signature drive to legalize marijuana aims to put a measure on the ballot next year. In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has said it will back off enforcing federal laws in states like California that permit some marijuana use, as long as those states have enforcement schemes of their own.