Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Inside San Leandro's trippy ride to its first-ever pot dispensary

Former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, left,
along with other council members at a town hall in
January 2013 on medical cannabis dispensaries.
PHOTO/Natalia Aldana
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | For years, San Leandro's city leaders wanted absolutely no part of the medical cannabis industry. Medical cannabis patients could always go to Oakland, officials often said. But then two years ago, two opponents of medical pot on the San Leandro City Council switched sides.

But not completely. The council decided in late 2013 that it would permit only one dispensary in the city. And the resulting competition for that single permit has attracted a number of strong and controversial applicants, including the country's largest dispensary, one that was recently tied to a federal corruption case in Oakland, and an untested local bidder that has close connections to San Leandro's political and business class.

Initially, fifteen applicants sought the permit. Then after three review phases, city staffers, with help from a consultant, whittled the list to six prospective bids. But the city has been in no hurry. "We've been very careful and cautious," said San Leandro Assistant City Manager Eric Engelbart.

The vetting process was also hampered earlier this year, Engelbart said, when the California Department of Justice took five months to complete background checks on the initial set of applicants. And now, just as the city is nearing a conclusion of its search for its first dispensary operator, a pair of high-profile news reports in recent weeks focusing on two of the applicants is generating apprehension.

Last month, Dan Rush, a well known and now former representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was indicted on corruption charges following an FBI investigation. Rush is alleged to have accepted a $600,000 bribe from Martin Kaufman, who is connected to the Oakland medical pot dispensary, BLUM Oakland; Kaufman was working with FBI agents to target Rush. The operators of BLUM are also bidding for San Leandro's permit under the name of the San Leandro Community Collective.

Yet despite the negative press coverage, BLUM's application may not be impacted by the indictment...



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