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Council votes to shutter pot club

Submitted by on 1, May 20, 2009 – 6:00 am4 Comments

The City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday night to uphold revocation of the business license for the Purple Elephant medical marijuana dispensary. But an attorney representing the dispensary said he intends to sue to keep its doors open.

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said the decision effectively shuts the club down. But Edward Higginbotham, the dispensary’s attorney, disputed that, saying he thinks the city will need a court order first.

The council’s vote followed two hearings that each ended with revocation orders. Mayor Beverly Johnson recused herself from the council discussion and decision because she presided over the previous hearing on the license.

The dispensary’s advocates pleaded with the council to keep it open. They said the Purple Elephant offers them safe access to the medicine they need, and that it could provide a needed tax boost to the city.

“Medical cannabis saved my life,” said Juliet Hopper. Hopper, who appeared in a black suit and heels, said she moved here from Cleveland to advocate for medical marijuana, which she said helped her battle manic depression. She said she was on over 40 medications before switching to marijuana to help her with her ailment.

Robert Raich, who litigated both of the medical marijuana cases that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, said the club’s application as a “miscellaneous retail” outfit is standard operating procedure for pot clubs, designed to avoid raids from federal drug agents. Although California voters have okayed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it’s still illegal under federal law.

But opponents said the club’s operator snuck into town under false pretenses. Kathy Moehring, executive director of the West Alameda Business Association, said that while she doesn’t have a problem with medical marijuana, she doesn’t want the dispensary on Webster Street.

“We are the first ones to say we are all being NIMBYs. We don’t want this on our street,” Moehring said.

Council members said they weren’t voting on the merits of marijuana as medicine, but on whether their process was followed. Council member Marie Gilmore said the club’s operators didn’t make the same efforts to connect with local business associations and others that other businesses might.

“That furthers in my mind that this was something that was done undercover,” Gilmore said.

The city moved to revoke the license in November, saying that the club’s owner, Luke Coleman, failed to accurately state the type of business he operates and to secure necessary zoning approvals before setting up shop last July. Higginbotham had argued that the city denied his client adequate due process in handling the revocation.

The city council approved, then extended, a moratorium on pot clubs until it could study the issue and write ordinances detailing whether such clubs would be allowed to come to the Island and under what circumstances. The moratorium extends through June 2010.

4 Comments »

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I am really sorry to read that Kathy Moehring and WABA oppose medical marijuana dispensaries operating on Webster Street. This "NIMBY" attitude strikes me as a seriously unhealthy and un-holistic attitude towards having a healthier Alameda.

    At the same time, the owner of The Purple Elephant should have been forthcoming and transparent when applying for city permits, and should not have withheld critical information from the community. A more open and honest approach might have gained them more allies in their attempt to serve those in medical need.

    I hope that this often enlightened community will develop reasonable procedures and applicable ordinances soon, so that those who need medicinal marijuana can legally obtain the relief they need in an establishment that is welcomed into its neighborhood by all residents.

  • Steph says:

    How does Kathy Moerhing feel about the tobacco superstore moving front-and-center in the Marina Village Shopping Center? (There are signs saying it's coming in one of the storefronts between Lucky & Mint Leaf. I think it's moving from around the side of the center.) I think the pot club would be better for Alameda's image.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    The opponents of the medical marijuana club opine the club’s operator snuck into town under false pretenses. Does this include Kathy Moering, the sole proponent of the SUNCAL/D.E. SHAW Initiative currently being circulated for signatures? With the misleading justification being espoused that it is "To clean up the base, because otherwise it won't get done and IT WILL BE DONE AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYERS?"

    How can it include anyone on the same City Council that allowed the Central Cinema to move into an area (Neighborhood commercial adjacent to residential) where it was not permitted under current zoning, and then allowed it to stay illegally while the City Council changed the zoning to accommodate the Theater?

    My my, such inconsistent "judgments" at a time when the City and business associations are facing financial meltdown. Hey let's litigate (at City cost) medical marijuana after the State of California (our elected legislators) have determined that it is OK and worth having. Such nonsense and NIMBY attitudes are what cause the City of Alameda to be seen as anti-business and to drive real businesses away.

    Take a look at Marina Village. All the storefronts for rent. Take a look at our budget shortages. Then ask if it is worth having someone's opinion of a less than wonderful business operate and pay taxes to have a fully staffed fire station, or a paramedic come quickly when one needs one.

    We make trade-offs. And in today's world, if you can't get what one consider's the best tenants, you go with lesser tenants. And if the medical dispensary is not open after 6pm or so, it should not be any more of a problem than the stores selling alcohol.

    How many police incidents/reports/crimes were there when the dispensary was open? Compare that to how many criminals stop off at MacDonald's before or after committing a crime because it is open late. No room to talk.

  • Cyrus Untimely says:

    Here is another (slanted) take.

    http://ohhburn.com/2009/05/breaking-news-bay-area-dispensary-forced-to-close/

    Very interesting. Sadly, several people will be out of a job. Seems unfair.

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