UPDATE: July 19, 2010

Oakland City Council Weighs Industrial Grows, Big Tax Hike for MMJ

Oakland’s contentious cultivation ordinance to license four industrial-size grows will be up for a vote before the full City Council this Tuesday, July 20th. Opponents will be arguing for modifications to permit smaller-scale grows along the line proposed in Berkeley, which envisions ten different facilities of 30,000 square feet or less.

On Thursday, the City Council will consider a controversial ballot measure by Councilmembers Reid and Kaplan that would impose a steep hike of the city’s cannabis business tax from 1.8% to 8% (or possibly 10 or 12%). The tax would be retroactive to January 1, 2010, forcing dispensaries to hike their prices even more to cover costs. The tax would mean higher prices for Oakland patients and put Oakland dispensaries at a major competitive disadvantage to other nearby cities such as Berkeley, which is proposing a more modest tax of 2.5%, or other cities which have no tax at all. The hearing is scheduled at 5:30PM. Cal NORML opposes additional tax hikes on MMJ until prices of medicine decline.

Text of Oakland tax proposal
Text of cultivation ordinance
Note: the cultivation ordinance has been cleaned up to permit outdoor growing, allow dispensaries to obtain MMJ from any legal source, and not require cannabinoid testing, but it still suffers from a one-size-fits-all production scheme in which unlimited amounts could be grown by four licensed producers at a fixed price of $211,000 per year. Cal NORML favors divvying up acreage among a diversity of licensed growers, with license fees scaled proportionately to the size of the facility.

– D. Gieringer]

Cal NORML Release July 12, 2010

The Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee will be hearing an ordinance to regulate and license marijuana cultivation facilities at city hall tomorrow night at 6 PM.

KQED Forum broadcast a story on the ordinance Tuesday morning.

While the city council deserves credit for having the vision to propose large-scale licensed grows in the city, the particular ordinance that has been proposed is overly restrictive, anti-competitive, monopolistic, and not in the best interest of patients.

* The ordinance would put all cultivation for dispensaries in the hands of just four, large-scale industrial facilities while outlawing all smaller scale collective growers. Under sections 5.81.30 (A) and 5.81.110, it would be illegal for anyone to grow for a collective without a manufacturing permit, of which only four would be issued at the prohibitive cost of $211,000 per year. This would outlaw countless patient growers who are currently providing good medicine for their collectives from modest-sized grows.

This is contrary to the idea of a collective set forth under SB420, which authorizes patients to associate to “collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana” for medical purposes. The
proposed ordinance would forbid individual patient members from cultivating for their own collectives and instead place cultivation entirely in the hands of a city-selected oligopoly of large-scale corporate growers. This is contrary to state law.

By putting all of its eggs in one (or four) baskets, Oakland would be putting its marijuana supply at risk. Any large-scale facility would be vulnerable to disruption by accident, fire or
infestation. Also, the proposed facilities would be of unprecedented large scale, inviting the likelihood of federal intervention. There are hundreds of different varieties and preparations of marijuana now available thanks to the work of hundreds of small-scale patient growers, who would be shut out by the proposed ordinance. Patients should have more than just four sources of medicine to chose from, just as they have more than four kinds of beer or aspirin.

* Another problem with the proposed cultivation ordinance is that all outdoor growing is forbidden, even by individual residential growers (section 5.81.101 (B)). Outdoor cultivation is preferable on many counts: it is more environmentally friendly, more economical, more energy efficient, and has no carbon footprint.

* Yet another problem concerns the requirement that all marijuana be potency tested for content of THC, CBD and CBN. Cannabinoid testing is costly and of minor interest to most
consumers. From a public health standpoint, consumers have a greater interest in testing for pesticides, mold, and other contaminants.

While California NORML supports the establishment of reasonable cultivation regulations for large scale grows, the current Oakland proposal is unreasonable, impractical, and disrespectful of patients’ rights .

Supporters are urged to tell the council to rewrite the ordinance.

– D. Gieringer, Cal NORML

Who to contact:

Oakland Public Safety Committee members:
Council Member Jean Quan
[email protected]

Council Member Larry Reid, Chairperson
[email protected]

Council Member Pat Kernighan
[email protected]
(510) 238-7002

Council Member Nancy Nadel
[email protected]

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