CITY COUNCIL DOES NOT HAVE THE POLITICAL COURAGE TO APPROVE POT IN SAN LEANDRO
By Steven Tavares
As opposed to Oakland, where the city council is moving forward with studying an ordinance that would allow industrial-sized, indoor growing facilities to go along with the city's successful dispensary industry, the political landscape in San Leandro is far more pristine without any legal groundwork in place. So, why did Santos blow the bugle so early on the perceived scourge of marijuana eyeing San Leandro before any work was done on its feasibility and possible cost benefits?
A group with interests in bringing the burgeoning marijuana dispensary and cultivation industries to San Leandro had already reached out to one mayoral candidate before meeting last week with Mayor Tony Santos. The group offered a significant amount of campaign dollars, but was ultimately turned down.
At least initially, Santos appears to be the candidate most amendable to bringing marijuana to the city. While the other three candidates quickly shot down the idea, Santos said he had no position, but later floated the idea the possibility of an estimated $5 million per year from the growing facility would go far in reinstating many city services residents lament losing or being pared back because of the recession.
Law enforcement is against any sort of marijuana distribution, according to Santos and the city's attorney predictably will advise against it, like many neighboring cities, on the basis it conflicts with federal law. An ordinance for Williams Street has not been discussed, nor has the city council weighed in. When dealing with such an inherently divisive and fear-proselytizing issue Santos may have made a blunder in bringing attention to the issue and effectively killing it along with the possibility of a financial windfall at a time when the city's budget is teetering near collapse.
Did Santos want to lay waste to marijuana cultivation in the city with overexuberance that effectively acted as a political defoliating agent on purpose? He may or may not have but the likelihood of getting four votes on a very anemic and timid city council would be nearly impossible. When Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, who unsuccessfully fought earlier this year for the city to reinstate medical marijuana dispensaries, was asked about the chances of get support in San Leandro he said, "Not with that board. I don't think any of them have the guts to pass it." He later added maybe Councilman Jim Prola.
Aside from the contentious issue, this is also a poor time for political adventurism in San Leandro. Three council positions are up for grabs and three challengers are vying to end Santos' time in the mayor's office. In addition, the heads up given by Santos will likely unleash a torrent of fear and false information against anything marijuana from the usual suspects ranging from police, little old ladies and concerned conservatives.
What San Leandro may face in the next few months with this debate is going to dovetail with discussions surrounding Proposition 19--the measure to legalize small amounts of marijuana--in the state and nation. The crux of the problems aims squarely at why purveyors of marijuana are shopping for real estate, if Prop 19 passes, large facilities are going to be in greater demand. If San Leandro passes up the large influx of tax dollars, another city will happily swoop in.