ADVOCATES GET DOWN TO GRASS TAX
Oakland Group Wants Voters to OK Levy on Pot
OAKLAND -- Advocates for the legalization of marijuana plan to ask
voters to adopt an initiative in November that aims to tax and
regulate the sale of pot in Oakland.
While the measure, to be submitted to City Attorney John Russo today,
would not decriminalize pot, it would direct the Oakland Police
Department to treat the private use of marijuana by adults as its
lowest priority until cannabis is legalized by California officials.
"It is possible to keep cannabis out of the hands of street dealers
and away from children, if we tax and regulate it," said Dale
Gieringer, a member of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance.
To put the measure on the November ballot, the alliance must collect a
minimum of 20,000 signatures from registered voters in Oakland.
Controlling the sale of cannabis and limiting it to licensed vendors
would eliminate street-level pot deals, while the taxes generated
would fund vital city services in a time of severe budget crunches,
according to Clare Lewis, a spokeswoman for the alliance.
A poll of 600 people commissioned by the group and conducted by
McGuire Research Services found more than 70 percent favored the initiative.
On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council completed sweep-ing new
regulations that will close down all but four medical cannabis
dispensaries and ban pot consumption at the clubs. Although dozens of
medical cannabis advocates strenuously objected to the ordinance at
council meeting, leaders of the medical marijuana movement declared
victory Wednesday and praised the regulations.
"It's very exciting," Lewis said. "Licensed medical cannabis
dispensaries seem like a small thing, but it's a huge step forward.
Right now, they have nothing."
The council members amended the ordinance to limit dispensaries to 8
ounces of marijuana, or 18 plants, per patient. Individuals are
allowed to keep a maximum of 72 plants for personal use.
Before the meeting, several dozen medical cannabis patients and care
givers gathered outside City Hall despite the pouring rain to rally
against the ordinance.
Some ridiculed a scarecrow dressed to resemble Council President
Ignacio De La Fuente (San Antonio-Fruitvale), who authored the
regulations with Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel).
"This ordinance would make life as difficult as possible for growers,
distributors and users," Attorney Robert Raich told the council. Raich
recently won a legal victory when a court ruled federal law does not
prevent his wife from personal use and cultivation of medical marijuana.
De La Fuente and Quan said some clubs are now being run too loosely
and are allowing marijuana to be resold on the street.
Despite voting for the ordinance, Councilmember Nancy Nadel
(Downtown-West Oakland) criticized the regulations, saying they did
not provide equitable and safe access to medical marijuana -- one of
the city's goals -- because of the ban on consumption at the clubs.
"I'm holding my nose to vote for this," Nadel said.
Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) cast the only vote
against the regulations, after abstaining from the first vote on the
regulations two weeks ago. She said she meant to vote no.
The ordinance is slated to go into effect June 1. Six months later,
the council will review the number of clubs and consider the issue of
smoking and consumption at the clubs.
The dozen or so cannabis clubs, several of which sprouted in an area
north of City Hall known as "Oaksterdam," will have until March 31 to
pay $400 and apply for one of the four permits.
City Manager Deborah Edgerly will have until May 17 to select the four
clubs, which will pay fees ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, depending
on the number of patients.
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ADVOCATES GET DOWN TO GRASS TAX