San Jose has gone from zero cannabis clubs to more than one hundred in the last two years, a rise so dramatic that it's siphoned off business from Oakland's biggest dispensary, Harborside Health Center. But Harborside is not content to be cut out, so it's been beefing up a San Jose location of its own that's starting to find a groove this fall after winning first place in the recent High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup's Indica category for "Boggle Gum."
Legalization Nation hit the road recently to check out Harborside San Jose, and found a clean-smelling, professionally run, high-tech spot that's among the least shady places to buy cannabis.
First off, nobody walks in San Jose, so expect to drive and find ample parking in the shaded business park that is home to Harborside in the northeast section of the city. Two security guards greet guests, and on a recent Friday afternoon, the dispensary was bustling with forty-year-old dudes in sandals and T-shirts, younger gents in urban attire, and a smattering of female patients. The theme is groovy office space with rattan rugs and drop-ceiling tile, and the metal detector occasionally beeps in time to the downtempo of Thievery Corporation.
New patients need a valid recommendation and state ID, and take a ten-minute orientation that ends at the waiting line. It's often ten people deep and moves slower than a bank. But that's because the counter-people gladly walk newbies through the enormous menu.
Harborside used to post menus on flat-screen TVs, said Amanda, one of the dispensary's senior salespeople, but the menus couldn't keep up with supplies. Coveted varietals turn over very fast, and top-sellers like the award-winning Boggle Gum can only be obtained by those lucky enough to catch a tweet of it and rush down before it's gone.
But like all clubs in the South Bay, Harborside San Jose has a cloudy future. The San Jose City Council is mulling a plan to force all clubs to close and apply for ten total permits. The plan returns to council this fall but could drag into next year's local elections, according to Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition spokesman Dave Hodges, who runs the dispensary A2C2.
The first marijuana legalization effort of California's 2012 election cycle isn't off to a great start. Despite token mainstream press from the likes of the Washington Post and California Watch, "Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012" has little to show for itself, and almost no funds.
The hype so far, in fact, is a teachable moment: Almost anyone can file an initiative in California and few of them go anywhere. Those serious about legalization should be looking at the fundamentals.
For starters, the text of the initiative keeps changing. The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act received its title and summary from the California Secretary of State on July 22. But state officials removed "regulate" from the title and labeled it Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute, because they said "we weren't regulating it to their satisfaction," said Steve Kubby, a Lake Tahoe libertarian activist who co-founded the group Tax Marijuana 2012 with retired Orange County judge Jim Gray.
Kubby said that as a result, they're starting over, and "putting in more carefully drafted language."
Once they finalize, resubmit, and get a new title and summary, the group will need an estimated $1.4 million to pay signature-gatherers to obtain roughly 800,000 signatures in 150 days — and that's just to get the initiative qualified for the November 2012 election. It could take $5 to $10 million to win.
According to Kubby, the group has about $10,000 in its campaign coffers. The big funders associated with Prop 215 in 1996 and last year's failed Prop 19 aren't donating right now, Kubby said. About 46 percent of California voters in 2010 approved of the tax-and-regulate pot initiative, which failed by about 345,000 votes.
So Tax Marijuana 2012 is taking a different tack in fund-raising. The group plans to hold its first fund-raiser on September 1 in Newport Beach with the goal of tapping funds in conservative Orange County. "There's a lot of high net-worth people that we're going to be talking to," Kubby said.
However, just what these high-rollers will be donating to remains an open question. Tax Marijuana 2012 attorneys are currently redrafting their wording to better specify the new pot-regulating powers of the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The latest draft is available online, and while the spirit of the act is clear, the details remain vague. It calls for pot industry fees and regulations "using the grape and wine industry as an example" — wording that Kubby acknowledges is not very explicit.
As it reads now, Regulate Marijuana Like Wine also would decriminalize pot from seed to sale and subject it to sales tax. Small, non-commercial grows of up to 25 indoor plants and 12 outdoor plants would be exempt from commercial regulations, just as home brewers are exempt from state alcohol regulations. There are also no weight limits, and it bars police from enforcing federal law.
Going back to the drawing board is part of a bigger plan, Kubby said. "This feedback tells us what changes we need to make," he said of the state officials' decision to remove the word "regulate" from the title — at least for now. "It was a learning experience for us."
The true make-or-break moment for Tax Marijuana 2012, he said, will perhaps come by the end of this year. "If we don't have six figures in the bank December 1, you're not going to take us very seriously," he said.
Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Boggle Gum's finish at the 2011 High Times San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup. The strain won first place in the indica category.