|Underground production of marijuana using hydroponics like above are prevalent in San Leandro according to a police detective last November. An ordinance against medical marijuana could be approved in San Leandro as early as this summer.|
PROLA IS LONE VOICE IN FAVOR OF WELCOMING POT TRADE
By Steven Tavares
The political will to allow medical marijuana dispensaries and possibly grow centers in San Leandro was clearly soft Monday night as the vast majority of the San Leandro City Council favored preparation of an ordinance prohibiting legalized pot’s slow creep into the city.
The council could vote on the prohibition of medical marijuana within its city limits in 3-4 months, according to Kathleen Livermore, a senior planner for San Leandro. Only San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola spoke in favor of expanding the growing and increasingly lucrative pot trade to San Leandro. The rest of the council was noticeably tight-lipped with their opinions on the controversial issue with many merely registering a preference for the staff recommendation of the prohibition.
The issue has gained a national following in Oakland with the council clashing with its city attorney and the Department of Justice over the legality of issuing permits for large-scale growing facilities up to 50,000 sq. ft. Even though California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996 it is still illegal under federal law. San Leandro has followed a legal path recognizing the ban on pot. Its charter specifically calls for the preeminence of federal law within San Leandro.
San Leandro Capt. Steven Pricco reiterated the police department’s stance given last November saying allowing dispensaries and grow centers would increase crime with the negatives greatly outweighing the positives, namely increased tax revenue. “I believe the estimates are greatly exaggerated and inflated at this time,” said Pricco.
Prola, who has consistently supported medical marijuana in San Leandro, referred to testimony given last November by San Leandro Det. Dan Fernandez saying illegal growing of marijuana was pervasive in the city. “It’s being done so much,” said Prola, “that they can’t get a handle on it.”
During a work session Nov. 9 Fernandez said the sheer number of people growing in marijuana in San Leandro would take a full-time job to eradicate. "There are hundreds of homes growing it in San Leandro,” he said then. "It could be our only job." When Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak specifically asked how many, Fernandez said, “It’s irrelevant. There are so many.”
At one point Monday Prola briefly jostled with the police captain over the criminal element involved with medical marijuana. Pricco worried about the type of “element” medical marijuana would bring to the city. Prola shot back, “The element is already here.”
A few large scale growers reportedly from Southern California met briefly with city officials last summer with an interest in opening a facility in San Leandro, possibly in the industrial area of Williams Street near Doolittle Avenue. Then-Mayor Tony Santos said the grow centers had the potential to reap tax revenue in the millions. According to Livermore, there are no pending applications for dispensaries or cultivation sites.
Just four municipalities, including the unincorporated areas of Alameda County currently allow dispensaries. One of the closest dispensaries is located in San Lorenzo on East Lewelling Boulevard near E. 14th Street. The others includes Albany, Oakland and Berkeley, of which the last two are seeking to approve cultivation facilities.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com