July 4, 2011

Souza Seeks Support for Pot Ordinance at Town Hall Meeting

San Leandro District 3 Councilmember Diana Souza spoke at a recent Town Hall meeting about a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited marijuana collectives and cooperatives. That ordinance failed to pass on May 16, 2011, with Councilmembers Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter, Jim Prola, and Michael Gregory voting against passing the ordinance.

While Souza did not explicitly encourage members of the audience to pressure their council members to pass an ordinance, it was clear that was her intent. The following is a transcript of her comments regarding the marijuana ordinance:

The thing that I'm going to talk to you about is medical marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. How many of you know what those are? Great. We're moving along. So the Council directed staff at the end of last year, I believe it was, to put together an ordinance. Well first of all, we put a moratorium on medical marijuana in the City and we then directed staff to say create an ordinance to prohibit dispensaries and grow farms. So staff diligently did the work that we asked them to, When they brought that ordinance back to us, the ordinance was rejected by Council. So now we still have a moratorium and it's going to expire to expire, but we'll probably extend it another year. But we're going to be needing to give staff direction on what we want them to create. They have no direction right now and we haven't given them any. So I just want you as residents to be aware that coming down the road we're going to be giving them direction, so if you want to have a conversation with your council member or if you want to have input on how the council should provide that direction, I encourage you to contact your council members. And again, I don't really want to get into a debate about anything else about the situation right now. But I do want to just encourage - make you aware that's coming up and if you have an opinion, share it with your council members coming up.

The history of San Leandro's prohibitions of dispensaries dates back to December 2004 when the City Council enacted a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries to prevent one from opening in San Leandro. Subsequent ordinances were passed in January 2005 and January 2006.

However, the moratorium on marijuana dispensaries ended as of December 4, 2006, because the State of California places time limits on urgency ordinances like the ones San Leandro enacted to prohibit marijuana dispensaries within the City. According to the City Attorney, marijuana dispensaries cannot be licensed in San Leandro because they possess and distribute a federally-controlled substance. San Leandro Municipal Code Sec. 2.2.420 permits the Finance Director to reject a business license application if there is "reasonable cause to believe...that a proposed business will not comply with any applicable laws..." This seems to give the City of San Leandro the flexibility to ban or license marijuana-related businesses depending on the current climate.

More recently, on October 4, 2010, the City Council approved a 45-day interim urgency ordinance that placed a moratorium on dispensaries and grow facilities. After a work session on November 8, 2010, City staff recommended that the City Council adopt a 22-month moratorium at the November 15, 2010, meeting. That recommendation failed and a shorter 10-month moratorium was approved with only Councilmember Joyce Starosciak opposed (she voted for the longer moratorium).

At a February 28, 2011, work session, the City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance prohibiting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Cultivation. On May 16, 2011, that ordinance was defeated, as noted above.

The current moratorium expires on September 30, 2011. Since the City already has the authority, under its municipal code, to prohibit licensing of marijuana-related businesses, the expiration of the moratorium is unlikely to produce any change in the status of marijuana-related businesses in the City of San Leandro.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at July 4, 2011 8:30 AM | TrackBack
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