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Council okays pot club ban

Submitted by on 1, May 5, 2010 – 5:00 am3 Comments

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop in Alameda.

“Conceptually, it’s something everybody thinks should be done,” Councilman Frank Matarrese said of providing marijuana for medical use. “But nobody wants it next door.”

Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas took great pains to say that staff’s recommendation to ban the clubs was a land use decision and was not based on moral or political considerations or personal opinions on whether medical marijuana is good or bad. And he said the city has more important issues to deal with, and limited staff and time to deal with them.

“This is a very new issue for cities in California. The laws that underpin this land use are under constant change,” Thomas said. “This is not necessarily an issue the City of Alameda wants to get in front of.”

The Planning Board said in January they would not support a ban, and they wanted city staff to work on rules for permitting dispensaries under limited circumstances. But Thomas said he didn’t think the rules could be put together before the city’s time limit for imposing a moratorium on the clubs expires, in November. He said the city should have rules on the books, and that those rules could be changed at a later date.

And he said that no one had contacted the planning department to support having the dispensaries in town. No one spoke in favor of the dispensaries at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Police Chief Walt Tibbet said he supported the ban, saying the clubs are not permitted by state or federal law and that anecdotally, they have been linked to an increase in a variety of crimes.

And Robb Ratto, executive director of the Park Street Business Association, said his board voted in favor of the ban.

“We don’t think this kind of business is appropriate for Park Street, Webster Street, or any street in this town,” Ratto said.

More than three-quarters of the 86 voters in The Island’s informal poll said they opposed placing a ban on the dispensaries.

City Councilwoman Lena Tam said she thinks Alameda Hospital would be the ideal place to dispense medical marijuana, but the hospital would lose a substantial amount of federal money if it were to do so because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Mayor Beverly Johnson, who called the dispensary operations “legalized drug dealing,” said she thinks they are a far cry from the co-ops she believes were intended when California voters opted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.

City officials began looking at enacting an ordinance to regulate the dispensaries in 2008 after a dispensary called the Purple Elephant quietly set up shop on Webster Street and other would-be operators called the city to find out how they could set up clubs in Alameda. The Purple Elephant has since closed.

Proponents had said the club or another like it would provide a safe place to get medicine that helps them cope with a variety of grim ailments, and also an opportunity for the city to collect badly needed tax revenue. But opponents said the clubs would be a magnet for crime.


  • PeaceLove says:

    Disgraceful. The City of Alameda can now join with Creationists and Global Warming deniers as proud opponents of science in public policy. This article contains a number of baseless assertions and avoids the central issue:

    1. Banning cannabis clubs IS a moral issue. Patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments benefit from medical cannabis. Preventing them from getting easy legal access causes needless hardship and suffering. Compassion, anyone?

    2. Mr. Thomas: This is NOT a new issue. The people of California voted *fourteen years ago* to allow cannabis to be used as medicine. Current support for medical cannabis in California is between 70% and 80%. Don’t blame your inability to act in accord with your constituents wishes on “changing laws.” Just get it done.

    3. Police Chief Tibbett: Cannabis dispensaries are NOT linked to an increase in crime. In L.A., where there are hundreds of dispensaries, the LAPD Chief Beck has admitted as much. “I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra,” Beck told the Daily News. “It doesn’t really bear out.” (http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/city-news/beck-pot-flip-flop/). In fact, the crime rate in L.A. has been dropping steadily for years. (http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/city-news/los-angeles-crime-down/) Anecdotes are not evidence, and policy should be based on evidence.

    4. Mayor Johnson: Thanks for pointing out that selling legal drugs is “legalized drug dealing.” Legalized drug dealing is what pharmacies do as well. The only difference is that every prescription drug sold at drug stores *without exception* is more dangerous than cannabis. There are no credible reports of an overdose from cannabis in the history of the medical literature. Cannabis does not destroy the liver or kidneys, unlike many prescription and even over-the-counter drugs. A judge (at the DEA, no less) ruled that cannabis is “safer than many foods we commonly consume.”

    The closing paragraph of this article ought to be held out as an example of how phony “objectivity” leads to bad journalism. One side points out correctly that suffering patients need a convenient place to get their medicine. The other side, parroted without question, makes the evidence-free claim that clubs would be a magnet for crime.

    And can we address the tax issue? Cannabis is a plant and a medicine. We don’t tax any other plants and we don’t tax medicines. Why add to the burden of patients with cancer, AIDS, Parkinsons, ADHD, depression, chronic pain and other ailments. Many patients lack health insurance, and many are unable to work because of debilitating conditions. Do we really want to raise money on the backs of the suffering? What kind of cruel and unusual policy is that?

    If the Island’s informal poll is any indication, over 75% of Alameda residents opposed the city’s decision. Let’s hope they use their voting power to find new leadership that will decide policy on science rather than lies.

  • PeaceLove says:

    As a follow-up, the San Francisco police have now admitted they have zero evidence of any link between cannabis dispensaries and increased crime:



    Since pot clubs are a primarily cash-only business and are, by definition,
    chock full o’ pot, they’re attractive to criminals, Loftus said. That may be
    the case — but crime has actually decreased in areas where pot clubs have
    opened up since 2005, admitted Loftus, who used to work in the SFPD’s
    robbery division and witnessed the drop in crime.

    That revelation prompted an outcry from attorney Patrick Goggin, who called
    the SFPD report worthless.

    “No evidence has been presented connecting these alleged crimes and the
    operations of the dispensaries,” he told the commission. “I don’t get
    anything out of this report, with all due respect.”

    DeJesus did. Blasted at Wednesday’s hearing and beforehand for taking an
    outspoken stance on the issue, she nonetheless sprang onto her soapbox once
    again to chide the SFPD for “dividing communities over medical marijuana.

    “This commission has an obligation to make sure this department is honoring
    [the state’s] medical cannabis laws,” she said. “…The department shouldn’t
    be out there politicizing to prevent something that is entirely legal. And
    if you guys” — her fellow police commissioners — “can’t see that, I am
    surprised. I really am surprised.”

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