Tuesday, September 17, 2013

San Leandro Approves Draft Ordinance Allowing Two Dispensaries

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL//DISPENSARIES | After much advocacy and derision regarding one of San Leandro’s most controversial topics, the City Council passed a draft ordinance that could allow up to two medical cannabis dispensaries in city boundaries following over three years of debate.

A large amount of medical cannabis supporters argued for the safe use of cannabis and its positive therapeutic benefits to patients. Their arguments were reflected in the votes of the council’s two biggest advocates for dispensaries, Councilmember Michael Gregory and Vice Mayor Jim Prola. “We have been messing with this for three years and it is time we move on and get beyond this,” said Prola, before citing statistics that claim dispensaries lower crime and regulation will help squash the black market.

The council’s common fence sitters on this issue, Councilmembers Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter and Mayor Stephen Cassidy, came out in favor of dispensaries. Reed’s vote was likely the biggest surprise considering she voiced support for a ban after the California Supreme Court ruled last Spring that cities could institute an ordinance to ban dispensaries. “I took the opportunity to do the due diligence of visiting Harborside Center," said Reed. "I have gone back and forth on this issue but after visiting the health center today I was very impressed.” Cutter argued the same point after visiting Harborside.

But despite a victory for pro-cannabis dispensary advocates in San Leandro, a new battle, although far more particular one, is building steam. Both Cutter and Cassidy want to cut the allowed amount of dispensaries in the ordinance from two to one. Souza, in an effort to undercut the ordinance, threw her support behind Cassidy and Cutter’s proposal. However, the draft ordinance, for now, passed as is with a recommendation for a maximum of two dispensaries. The issue of limiting the number of dispensaries to one could return to the council as early as this November.

Some on the council, most notably Reed, also want to push for a ballot measure to tax the cannabis in order to collect more from the dispensaries rather than business fees. Reed argued the potential to collect could mean millions in new tax revenues for the city that is currently being lost to Oakland, which regulates its dispensaries with taxes.

But religious special interests, most notably San Leandro's Heritage Evangelical Foundation Church, also showed up in force Monday night, lead by Pastor Alan Fong, who offered a staunch and socially conservative opposition to medical cannabis.

The religious congregation flooded the chambers of the San Leandro Senior Community Center last Spring as well at a council work session on medical cannabis dispensaries. But unlike then, Fong steered clear of the religious argument against drugs and instead favored a more practical approach denouncing the dispensaries as detrimental to the quality of life in San Leandro.

“There is a public safety risk of what medical marijuana would bring into the city. There would be the use of it while driving, there would be increase in juvenile delinquency and juveniles would have greater access to it,” said Fong, “Medical marijuana would damage the reputation of San Leandro being a safe place to live.”

Fong’s pressure on public safety and worry over unprescribed use was followed by two of the council’s most ardent naysayers to medical marijuana dispensaries, Councilmembers Benny Lee and Diana Souza. “My response is cultural. In the Asian community we do have a lot of concern over any kind of unprescribed use,” said Lee. Souza advocated for the issue to go to the ballot instead.

The draft ordinance continues to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Planning Commission for review before returning to the council for final approval.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Shane_Bond_


It will be legalized here next time it is put on the ballot. Better we regulate it like tobacco and alcohol.

I agree. This is happening all over the country whether you like it or not. Better to get ahead of the ball, than behind it.

I think Diana Souza's comments last night were right on. We're NOT debating the legality of marijuana, just whether a dispensary, which is legal ,should be allowed in San Leandro. The rest of these arguments are a waste of hot air.

You can't have medical marijuana without dispensaries.

San Leandro should have done this already like Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, Hayward, San Jose, Alameda County, etc. San Leandro needs the money and dozens of studies show there is no increase in crime.

San Leandro moves into the 21st Century--about time.

Hurry SL now you can smoke out and when you get the munchies you can head to Alameda to Five 5 and IN n OUT

Bob Swanson must be screaming for joy. He loves marijuana and everything related to it.

Yes we should totally be like Oakland, Hayward, Unicorporated San Lorenzo and Richmond!!! That's what I want in my city.

Look if you got Glaucoma or Herpes get in your car or on your bus and drive your as to a neighboring city to get your weed....Keep it out of my city!

I'm a San Leandro resident--why should I have to go to another city to get my medicine?

It will be legalized here next time it is put on the ballot. Better we regulate it like tobacco and alcohol.

You have to dispense medical marijuana in dispensaries, otherwise it will be dispensed all over the city on the street. Control where it is dispensed and you reduce crime as many studies have shown.

It's time to regulate it because what we are doing now isn't working. No regulation equals more crime. Bring the dispensaries to San Leandro and regulate them to reduce crime. We need to get our medicine in a safer way than the streets.

Hope they have two dispensaries to keep the costs reasonable through competitive pricing. It's always good to have a choice.

Agree there should be 2 or more dispensaries. The police chief will probably be looking for any little mistake to close them.

Thank you San Leandro City Council. That is, all except Benny Lee and Diana Souza who apparently would rather have gangs distribute medical marijuana in San Leandro. This causes a higher crime rate in our city. Shame on them!

Thank You Benny Lee and Diana Souza for your commitment to the safety of my family and many others in San Leandro!

I live in San Leandro with my family and I want to get my medicine in my city. There are many studies that show the crime rate is lower around dispensaries than it was before the dispensaries were there. Right now gangs distribute it and don't ask for an i.d. It's better we control and regulate. I want to congratulate the Mayor, Vice Mayor, and 3 Council members that voted for the dispensaries. Maybe we can make some more money to pay for more police officers so they can go after the real crime in San Leandro.

We need at least three dispensaries. I agree with most of the comments above, especially the last one.

You have to dispense medical marijuana in dispensaries, otherwise it will be dispensed all over the city on the street. Control where it is dispensed and you reduce crime as many studies have shown.

You all make is sound like dispensaries will be lining up to open in San Leandro. Between the requirement for security personnel, camera requirements, a wishy washy non poicy for flat business license fee or perecentage charges,questionable market demand, and a well deserved reputation of a police force looking forward to "shootin' fish in a barrel" do you really expect a legitimate operator to set up shop?

Maybe Tim Holmes should have spent a bit more time running his business correctly rather than smoking the icky sticky

Some are already talking about it in the mmj community. San leandro will have many legitimate applications.

I actually agree with whoever said we need at least 3 dispensaries. If one goes out of business for whatever reason, we will have two left, which will foster competition as far as pricing and quality. Competition is good and it's the American way!

Agree it's time for San leandro to get some dispensaries and do our fair share under the Compassionate Use Act for our San Leandro patients and residents who need their medicine. Thank you City Council.

I'm really proud of the five Council members who voted for the dispensaries.

You can't have medical marijuana without dispensaries.

Cassidy, I think that is wrong, unimaginative and short sighted for vote no for raise the Chinese flag.

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