Oakland City Hall officials have begun a six-month-long administrative process that will lead to the awarding of four permits to cultivate large-scale amounts of medical cannabis in Oakland. Winning such permits will involve enduring miles of red tape, culminating in public meetings where pot farmers' potential neighbors could ultimately decide their fate.
Arturo Sanchez, assistant to the city administrator, says he's drafting a rough version of the city's request for permit applications for large-scale cultivation this month. The draft RFPA will go before the full city council for review when they return from their summer break. After some tweaking, the city will settle on a final RFPA by September that lays out its expectations from potential cultivators, then hold a public meeting where all interested parties can get the official document. Some 226 groups have expressed interest in applying for a permit, but Sanchez expects the $5,000 permit application fee as well as the later $211,000 permit fee to winnow that amount down considerably.
Furthermore, the exact RFPA specifications for cultivators will automatically disqualify a number of applicants. The city will use a points system to ensure that potential cultivators meet some rather stringent standards for lighting, ventilation, plumbing, security, and building maintenance. Sanchez expects to have forty to fifty strong candidates. A bonus points system will also reward council priorities like local ownership, union hiring, and environmental goals for the farms. When the deadline to turn in permit applications passes, city staff will review all qualified applications with specific names of applicants redacted to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
The final dozen or so strongest candidates will end up in a noticed public hearing, where they must make their case to the city council, and face any neighbors who might oppose their plans. Ultimately, the strongest applicants' potential neighbors may determine their destiny.
Several experts have voiced concerns that large-scale farms could violate state laws requiring a strong link between growers of medical cannabis and the cooperatives and collectives who dispense it.
Sanchez said the onus is on applicants to show how they will be in compliance with all state laws, which include forming as a nonprofit or mutual benefit corporation, showing a link to dispensaries (maybe by becoming a member of several), and preventing diversion of crops to the illicit markets. Contrary to popular conception, the city might also require growers to lay out a tiered process for cultivation wherein they start at a smaller scale and reapply for a larger farm.
Abiding by state law and limiting the size of farms will hopefully keep federal law enforcement at bay, Sanchez says. The Drug Enforcement Administration has requested the city's ordinance and has said it is interested in Oakland's plans.
Oakland landowner Jeff Wilcox, a key figure in the cultivation ordinance saga, says he worries about the competition for permits after spending tens of thousands of dollars to make such permits a reality. He's also concerned about placating DEA concerns. "The key thing now is not to fuck this up," he said.
Seeds & Stems
Rich drug-law reform donors like George Soros have not donated to Proposition 19, the Los Angeles Times reports. "I'm going to let Californians stew in their own juice," said one large contributor. In contrast, Soros and crew had raised $3.4 million by June for 2008's Prop 5, the failed "rehab not jail" ballot measure. Prisons and cops also spent millions fighting Prop 5, but today even drug warriors have gotten tight, donating just $60,000 to the No on 19 campaign. ... The California Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbies in Sacramento, formally came out against Prop 19 last week, falsely claiming employees could be allowed to smoke weed on breaks. First Amendment lawyer and Prop 19 author James Wheaton told Legalization Nation that employers don't have to let workers come to work drunk, and they wouldn't have to let them come to work high. The California Chamber of Commerce "completely misses that the initiative makes no change to existing law regarding private property and what one can bring or do on it," said Wheaton. "When someone has a spin there's no point in arguing." ... Speaking of which, anti-gay marriage leaders SaveCalifornia.com and the 1.5-million-strong Christian political group Vision to America have joined the fray. Vision to America e-blasted its followers with a No on 19 political ad, appealing for donations and threatening a stoner economic apocalypse if California voters pass the measure. "Is your doctor stoned? Is your child's teacher? You won't know," the anti-gay marriage group warns. "Proposition 19 could make that all a possibility." ... Ex-San Jose Chief Joseph McNamara and Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar squared off on legalization during a live net broadcast facilitated by the San Francisco Chronicle. Addressing the "Societal Consequences of Prop 19," the two offered starkly different takes. McNamara — a former research fellow at Stanford University — recommended ending prohibition, calling current policy "a disaster." Chief Dunbar — who holds a master's of the arts from San Diego State — advocated the status quo based on his experiences in the suburb of Pleasant Hill. Dunbar called weed "the most deadliest drug in the country." Full highlights on our blog. ... The latest polls show California at an inflection point. A SurveyUSA Poll, which uses automated dialing and polling, shows Prop 19 up 50 to 40. Similarly, the latest Field Poll finds roughly 51 percent of voters in favor versus roughly 46 against. That poll did not test the wording of the initiative.