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UPDATED Council okays moratorium on pot clubs

Submitted by on 1, November 7, 2008 – 8:45 amNo Comment


In what might have been the shortest hearing we’ve ever witnessed (20 minutes!), the City council voted unanimously to put a 45-day moratorium on pot clubs opening up in town.

Council members said they wanted the chance to see how other communities have handled the clubs in deciding whether to allow them, and under what circumstances.

The decision follows the opening of one medical marijuana dispensary, Purple Elephant, on Webster Street, and additional requests made to the Planning and Building Department in recent weeks by others seeking to open pot clubs on the Island.

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said the moratorium won’t affect existing businesses like Purple Elephant, but it does bar more pot clubs from setting up in town while it is in effect.

The club applied as a “miscellaneous retail” operation on its business license, Highsmith confirmed.

The listed contact for the club, Luke Coleman, did not speak at the meeting Thursday night. We tried to contact him earlier Thursday, and he told us he needed to talk to his lawyer first. We didn’t hear back.

Proponents of the club – who included Fred Gardner, an Alameda resident who served as spokesman for onetime San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan – argued that it is a desperately needed safe place for local residents to get their medicine for a variety of ailments.

Isao Taguchi, a member of the Purple Elephant collective who said he suffers from lower back pain, said the club provides him safe access to medicine he needs, something that has allowed him to function without the help of narcotics.

Proponents also argued the club and others like it could bring tax dollars to the Island.

Robb Ratto of the Park Street Business Association argued the council needed to focus not on whether the clubs were good or bad but how they wanted to regulate the clubs.

Longtime Alameda political fixture Nick Cabral said he has family members who use marijuana to treat medical conditions, but he argued many people who possess a “cannabis card” aren’t really sick.

“Webster Street does not need people coming through here to get drugs,” Cabral said.

City staff is expected to come back to the council before the moratorium ends to ask for a 12- to 18-month extension to study the issue.

Lauren Do’s got more on this one, by the way (and definitely the best headlines!), right here.

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