by David Downs
Oakland's historic pot farm regulations passed 5-2-1 at 11:27 p.m. Tuesday night after a heated three-hour hearing featuring over 100 requests from the public to make comment. The city wants to permit four large-scale medical cannabis farms of unlimited size which could grow up to 20 percent of the state's crop and net the broke city about $38 million in annual cultivation taxes. The second reading and vote on the ordinance occurs Tuesday, July 27.
The city council moved Oakland one large step closer to treating medical cannabis like actual medicine, by highly regulating and taxing large-scale production subject to stringent guidelines. A horror show of local pot problems emerged during the session with issues of mercury poisoning, pesticides, mold, and other nasty material said to be present on the unregulated crops of Oakland and beyond. Some clubs like Harborside independently test for molds, but the City of Oakland would set some of the highest standards for medical cannabis quality in the country. Economies of scale would drop the price, and drive out of business reckless home growers who had contributed to a 300 percent increase in residential fires in the city over the last few years.
A motion by council member Ignacio De La Fuente added the possibility of permitting medium-scale grows in the fall, as well as clarifying that busting unpermitted farms would only begin after permits have been issued in January 2011.
Oaksterdam owner Rich Lee came out in favor of the proposition as well as ally and landowner John Wilcox, who plans to rent space to growers and seed the "silicon valley of cannabis in Oakland."
Nearby club owner Stephen D'Angelo, a former business partner of Wilcox but now estranged said it would put hundreds of closeted growers out of business.
"It's not the role of government to choose the winners and losers in the marketplace."
His club buys from 400 to 500 Bay Area indoor farms with as many as half operating in Oakland.
Many complained about ending small grows, but the rules allow for unpermitted cultivation of up to 96 square-feet. Many used the word "corporate" as an epithet to describe who would be growing, despite the fact that all local dispensaries are in effect already corporations, as are many other community-minded concerns.
The final passage of the new pot farm regulations would shift the balance of power in town to landowners and capital owners who can show the space and funds to get a permit, but those landowners will only be as powerful as the growers tending crop there and dispensary clients legally backing such grows.
California NORML official Dale Gieringer said what the city is doing might be illegal at both the federal and state level and could invite DEA raids.
The discussion polarized the medical cannabis community in Oakland, with dispensary battling dispensary and what would otherwise be allies disagreeing vehemently.
Expect to see a lot more rules and regulations on just who is to grow in Oakland and how, including mandates for union card check rights, CO2 emissions limits, taxes and other tough environmental guidelines most activists could only dream of applying to normal industry. NAACP president Alice Huffman supported the rules as part of the decriminalization of the plant, stating "you are rescuing Oakland from financial ruin.”
So did UFCW Local 5 official Dan Rush who added "I'm so proud to be an Oaklander."