by David Downs
Facing a vocal barrage from a well-educated cross-section of San Jose's 55,000 cannabis patients, the city's leaders kicked the can down the road Tuesday evening — voting to postpone regulating dispensaries until August.
“This is the good part,” said dispensary operator Stephen DeAngelo after the marathon, six-hour hearing. “It's another one of those days that makes me incredibly proud to be an American living in California in a place that's really about making local democracy work.”
The council was considering permitting at random just ten of the city's seventy or so clubs, after charging each a $95,000 registration fee. Dispensaries would then have to turn patient records over to the chief of police, possibly violating federal privacy laws. The community came out to bash each staff recommendation.
“Do not put a young woman's name on a list and give it to the the police,” begged patient advocate Darlene Welch. “She is 23 years old. She has no hope then.”
Oakland attorney James Silva said the proposed ordinance would violate the US Constitution, and he was ready to file an injunction.
“The proposed ordinance is draconian, but some of the provisions ... would violate the Fifth Amendment,” he said. “This is a community that wants to reach out to you and is hoping you'll reach back.”
After an exasperated Mayor Chuck Reed brought the hearings to a head, the city voted unanimously on Councilman Oliverio's motion to push back any rule-making until August 3rd, and learn more about what they want to do. Council ordered police to focus enforcement on dispensaries open within 500 feet of schools and residences. The city also moved toward putting a medical cannabis tax on the November ballot.
DeAngelo says the result was a starkly more reasonable series of actions than those recommended by the city's attorney and chief of police.
“I think city staff has been responding to pressure by the city attorney to craft the most restrictive possible ordinance,” he said. “Fortunately, within the city council exists substantial support for protection of patient rights.”