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   Oakland Proceeding with Caution on Pot Ordinance
Posted by DrReefer.com on December 28, 2010, 12:47 pm

By Chip Johnson
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

California -- It seems that Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan and her virtual campaign running mate, at-large Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, didn't want to stand in front of the authorities on this one. By a 7-1 vote, the Oakland City Council last week suspended its legal marijuana farm ordinance because it's not as legal as it was billed to be.

The council, on the advice of legal counsel and a letter of caution from the Alameda County district attorney's office, temporarily withdrew a plan to allow large indoor pot farms in the city.

The issue became a hot potato for Oakland lawmakers when Proposition 19, a state initiative for recreational use by adults, was defeated at the polls last month. And even though city officials said the new ordinance wasn't contingent on the state ballot initiative, it turns out they were dead wrong.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo issued a legal opinion saying the plan violates the state's medical marijuana laws and could place council members in legal jeopardy.

He advised the city to back off of the proposal because Prop. 215, the state medical marijuana law, offers no legal protection from prosecution by state or federal authorities.

"There's no authority in 215 to grow pot for profit," Russo told The Chronicle last week.

Two weeks earlier, in an effort to illustrate the potential severity of the problem, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley used the phrase "aid and abet or conspire" in a letter to Oakland officials.

Oakland policymakers' latest foray into the rapidly evolving world of marijuana legislation was a disappointment only because it's one of the few areas where the city has really shown leadership on a national scale.

In a state where medical marijuana dispensaries have cropped up in cities faster than they can be identified or regulated, Oakland's approach to the issue has been measured, restrained and smart.

The city has allowed only four permitted pot clubs to operate in the city, and although that number will double next year, it's nowhere near the unregulated growth seen in other large cities around the state.

The city has regulated the dispensaries and watched one of them, Harborside Health Center, grow to become the largest facility of its kind in the nation, and perhaps the world.

City officials are on the right track to zone and limit where such operations can be established because, in Oakland - where the legal pot clubs put up a combined $28 million in medical marijuana sales - there are dozens of illegal pot farms operating that pose a potential risk to neighbors.

In this case, Oakland city officials jumped the gun by approving pot farms without limits on size or specific details about the legitimate markets they intend to serve.

"No decisionmaker in Oakland should be surprised by the objections raised in the D.A.'s letter," Russo said. "This has always been a legally complex area, and you need to have a situation in which you are at least abiding by state law. If you're just making up rules in Oakland, it's not going to work."

He would not comment on his discussions with the council prior to the July vote approving the new ordinance.

When you consider Russo's position as the only elected law enforcement official in the state to endorse Prop. 19, his legal analysis is not linked to a political position.

The message is clear: Oakland city officials need to proceed with caution in the post-Prop. 19 era, which has prompted a response from federal authorities.

In recent months, at least two Oakland medical marijuana dispensaries have seen their bank accounts dropped by federally insured banks. One of the institutions was Harborside, which reported $21 million in revenue in 2009. Banks don't turn away those kinds of customers without a real good reason.

Chip Johnson's column appears in The Chronicle on Tuesday and Friday.

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Chip Johnson
Published: December 28, 2010
Copyright: 2010 San Francisco Chronicle
Contact: letters@sfchronicle.com
URL: http://drugsense.org/url/ewvgacPw
Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/

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Poster Thread
Posted: 12/28/2010 01:08 PM  Updated: 12/28/2010 01:08 PM
Home away from home
Joined: 05/24/05
From: Las Vegas
Posts: 1544
 Re: Oakland Proceeding with Caution on Pot Ordinance
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley used the phrase "aid and abet or conspire" in a letter to Oakland officials.

Its all a conspiracy. Why not send a letter to all the California voters and let them in the conspiracy.

"There's no authority in 215 to grow pot for profit,"

This is the problem California faces with its non-profits. If you can't make money, why would anyone take the risk to invest money and time and still risk being arrested?

The risks definitely out weight the benefits. This is why I prefer the Colorado state medical marijuana law.
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