Oakland considers limiting and licensing marijuana growers

Prop. 19 would legalize and tax marijuana in California, decriminalizing even recreational use for the first time.

Updated info below

The medical marijuana community – everyone from small growers to Harborside Health Center, the biggest dispensary in Oakland – are reacting strongly against an ordinance proposed by Oakland City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid to limit and license marijuana cultivation, a proposal that will be heard tonight (7/13) at 6 p.m. by the council's Public Safety Committee.

They say the measure is an affront to medical marijuana patients and the small growing operations that have been at the forefront of the long struggle to legalize pot for medical uses. While the measure stems from concern about growing weed in residential areas – it would allow only a few large growing operations exclusively in industrial areas – critics characterize it as an attack on patients that violates Prop. 215, the 1996 measure that legalized medical marijuana and explicitly allows patients to grow their own medicine.

“It’s a disturbing turn of events for the usually forward thinking Oakland City Council,” medical marijuana consultant Gaynell Rogers, who works with Harborside, the city's premier dispensary, wrote in a press release. It went on to quote Harborisde executive director Steve DeAngelo as saying, “This ordinance would deprive hundreds of patient-farmers of their livelihood. It seems a very unfair way to repay them for the years during which they courageously stood up to the federal government, and faithfully supplied patients with the medicine they could not get anywhere else...I’d rather see Harborside’s own opportunity to produce on a centralized efficient-scale basis reduced, than to see the small patient-farmers who are the backbone of this movement driven to extinction.”

Kaplan did not immediately return a Guardian call seeking comment, and neither did Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who is one of the few active law enforcement officers and elected officials to come out in support of Prop. 19, the fall ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for even recreational use by adults.

In addition to regulating growers for the first time, the proposed legislation would also increase the number of licensed dispensaries from four to six. San Francisco, a trailblazer in regulating medical marijuana, currently has more than 22 licensed dispensaries and no licensing program for growers, although Sup. Ross Mirkarimi has said there is a need to better protect growers from prosecution and even to explore having the city grow medical marijuana.

While medical marijuana advocates welcome regulations as a necessary step toward legitimizing the industry, they generally oppose anything limits a patient's rights to grow their own weed. "We support local regulation but not when it's at the expense of patients," Mike Meno, a spokesperson for the DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, told the Guardian.

The hearing will be held in council chambers, with this item last on the agenda for a meeting that begins at 6 p.m.

Update: Kaplan has been in a closed session on Oakland Police Department issues all day, but her staffers just got back to me and clarified that the measure allows small grows of up to 96 square feet or 72 plants (Oakland's standard for the needs of three patients) to continue unlicensed, although they say the intention is to eventually set standards and a legal framework for all medical marijuana growers.

Policy analyst Ada Chan said Kaplan is concerned about commercial grows in residential areas and its related crime and fire risks and "she feels we need to move it out of residential areas." She said Harborside and other medical marijuana players were consulted in drafting the legislation, which she said would likely be subject to more staff work before being approved: "This is just the first step."

But Harborside attorney James Anthony told us that he had not seen language or specifics on the legislation until it was publicly released last week, he's still concerned that small growing operations will be hurt by the measure because of ambiguity in the legislation, and he fears the council intends to move quickly on an unworkable policy: "This thing is on track to go to the full City Council next week and pass."


The ordinance doesn't change the limit for patients, In fact it says small patient grows are expected to make up 20% of the supply for clubs. Have you read the measure or just write about it?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

20% is a huge change from 100%!!! We're talking about hundreds if not thousands of people losing part or all of their livelihood. How can anyone growing 72 plants possibly compete with commercial size operations that will be able to grow upwards of 100 strains. This proposition is about greed and nothing else. Oakland and California are not receiving benefit from the unregulated growers, so they want to put them out of business.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

"The cultivation of medical cannabis in Oakland has not been regulated and
occurs entirely in small-scale home operations or larger-scale illicit warehouses. These
unregulated operations have led to public safety hazards, including fires, burglaries and home invasions, health risks to patients, and related response costs to the City." (5.80 Summary)

"It is reported that there are many un-permitted facilities throughout Oakland's industrial areas ranging from 1,500 s.f- 25,000 s.f cultivating for collectives throughout the northem Califomia region. These unregulated operations create hazards to public health and safety that have had a cumulative fiscal impact on the City which is responsible for responding to and addressing these unintended consequences." (5.80 Key Issues and Impacts)

"Permitting larger scale cultivation will allow for lower production costs per pound by creating economies of scale. Lower production costs will allow regulated cultivation facilities to undercut wholesale prices of carmabis grown in unregulated operations. This competition will lower the economic incentives to produce through unregulated cultivation, and the public safety risks/costs associated with those operations will decline. Home cultivation will never be entirely eliminated, as personal consumption and specialization in strain development will always exist.
Dispensaries expect that they will always purchase at least 20% of their product from individual collective members." (5.80.B.1)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

Wow, looks like Richard Lee and the rest of the Oakland Marijuana Aristocracy are out to attain a stranglehold on the economy of MMJ and then further reinforce it by cornering the Marijuana cultivation and distribution business with Prop 19 this fall. I guess Marijuana has officially become another hot commodity to control. Just like crude oil, diamonds (the DeBeers family) and energy (PG&E)...there's always someone looking to be the big boss instead of letting the free market exist. Oh how I miss the hippies now.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

The Oakland City Council plans to create a monopoly of huge medical marijuana growers and -- the author of Prop. 19 was a key player in this whole sordid affair. He also will make $$$ millions if Proposition 19 (The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative) gains approval in November. So will a few other handpicked millionaires in the Oakland medical marijuana grow and tax scheme. This is a corporate takeover of the industry, cartelizes the economy, and divides the existing medical marijuana cultivation industry into poor, unlicensed, mom-and-pop gardener versus rich, licensed, corporate farmer. Jack Herer was right. Cannabusiness is a far greater threat than we realized.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

Cannabusiness is the natural outgrowth of a legal, regulated cannabis market. There will be winners and losers, profit and loss, risk and reward, just as there is in the business world at large. This is a positive change, not a negative one. Far from being a threat, cannabusiness serves cannabis users by developing ingenious new models for growing, marketing and delivering high-quality marijuana in a way that is safe and secure.

There is a place for the "mom and pop gardener," especially if Prop. 19 passes, but that place doesn't necessarily have to be within densely populated areas, where fires and robberies involving home-based grow operations are of great concern. Limiting cultivation to areas with adequate security and electricity helps protect the public without placing unreasonable restrictions on cannabis trade.

Posted by Bud Green on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 10:49 am

Home producton is a risk because people cannot get proper inspections for such things. At least in Canada you can have the fire chief come through and make sure everything is wired/fire safe. This is a lame excuse by greedy council members who think this small amount of tax will make any difference. How much has the Calif. Lottery helped its schools? The politicians have already spent more than will ever be raised. If its taxes they want than why not have normal mom and pop have to buy a grow lic. and make it easy to pay their taxes. Prices would stay the same and in that case more tax money would be raised, right?To say they are not otherwise law abiding citizens is just plain wrong. Its not our fault Prop.215 is written w/ certain loopholes and if done properly medical marijuana growing is perfectly legal. Anyone who thinks we are making HUGE profits is just retarted and has never grown before. It takes serious time and money to do things right and produce quality medicine. If a crop fails or isnt up to standards wheres the money then? Farming is farming and these large corp grow houses will learn too. Bugs, mold, ect are always a risk. Oh yeah they will treat them with god knows what, or should you trust them like the big tobacco people.

Posted by Guestgrower on Jul. 18, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

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