Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jun 2014
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2014 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Mike Rosenberg
Page: A1


New Rules Limiting Locations, What Can Be Sold Will Close Many Stores

SAN JOSE - San Jose leaders have taken their firmest stance yet on one
of the thorniest issues at City Hall, moving to crack down big time on
medical marijuana dispensaries following several failed attempts to
get tough on pot over the last half-decade.

The San Jose City Council's 7-3 vote Tuesday evening limits existing
and new pot shops to a handful of select industrial areas that make up
less than 1 percent of the city, requiring the vast majority of the
dispensaries to close within a year. Even the ones that survive will
have to comply with costly new restrictions.

Dispensary opponents led by some parents, prosecutors, conventional
business owners and school officials pointed to research showing kids
in San Jose were getting their weed from the pot shops, either through
illegal drug deals or by obtaining medical cards. They said the city's
roughly 80 weed businesses were also destroying the character of
suburban neighborhoods, attracting crime and blight.

"I think we came up with something that protects our residents,"
Councilman Pete Constant said, while still "providing enough space for
dispensaries to operate."

While 60 percent of respondents in a city-commissioned poll earlier
this year wanted pot shops regulated, only 16 percent favored an
outright ban already adopted by about 200 California cities. But a ban
is exactly what will happen, marijuana store owners say, as the new
regulations will make it virtually impossible to do business in San

The requirements force pot shops to grow all weed in or next to Santa
Clara County, limit store hours and set up round-the-clock security.

What's more, no one under 18 can be allowed inside or to work for
dispensaries, the shops can't offer products that imitate candy and
customers can't get high in the store.

"Nobody can operate under those environments," said James Anthony, an
attorney representing many of the pot shops. "It's a de facto ban and
in kind of a sneaky way."

Pot business owners say they have collected more than enough
signatures necessary to put their own dispensary rules - with looser
regulations - on the ballot, Anthony says. They note the city makes
$5.4 million in tax revenue from the pot shops and insist the issues
are limited to a few problem shops. They were aiming to place the
initiative on the November ballot, but the council could delay it to
November 2016.

A similar scenario played out in 2011, when the council followed years
of discussion by voting for dispensary limits only to back off them
when a referendum qualified for the ballot. Since then, however, a
Supreme Court ruling and guidelines issued by the U.S. Attorney
General's Office have given cities new authority to regulate pot
shops, and the council says it's not backing off this time. Mayor
Chuck Reed has even vowed to lead the fundraising campaign against the
pot groups' ballot measure.

San Jose has the bulk of Silicon Valley's pot shops thanks in part to
its lack of action on regulations.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt