ORANGE COUNTY DISCUSSING SIMILAR SUSPENSION OF MARIJUANA
By Steven Tavares
Even if California voters pass Proposition 19 municipalities like San Leandro are bracing for the immediate legal gray area between the initiative and local zoning rules for dispensaries and growing facilities.
San Leandro’s city council will grapple tonight with a city staff report urging them to place an immediate moratorium on permits for marijuana-related business. According to city staff reports, there is no mention of dispensaries or facilities in the city’s municipal and zoning code, putting the city in a legal no-man’s land.
Last July there were reports of interest in various San Leandro properties for the use of large-scale growing centers. One group, according to San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, showed interest for a facility on Williams Street, which is a zoned commercial area.
Various state-wide polls show Prop. 19 narrowly passing with just a month before election day. Its passage would make California the first state to legalize the possession and growing of marijuana limited to an ounce. It would still make it illegal to possess cannabis for those under 21-years-old. In advance of the historic ballot initiative, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also voted into law last week a bill that would decriminalize pot possession to an infraction similar to a speeding ticket.
Despite the push for marijuana legalization in the state and centered by activists in Oakland, some cities and counties are moving towards limiting the possible impact. Not only will San Leandro revisit a moratorium on marijuana, but supervisors in Orange County will also discuss this week a similar 45-day moratorium.
San Leandro imposed a suspension on marijuana dispensaries in 2004 and renewal a year later. Similar to other California cities, San Leandro leaders, including law enforcement have been in opposition to the arrival of marijuana in their cities, whether medicinal or the push for legalization. The staff report issued last Friday recommends the council impose the moratorium partly based on the dangers opponents of marijuana says could arrive in the city. According to the staff report dispensaries and growing facilities “poses a current and immediate threat to the public, health, safety, and welfare.”
Similar to the 2004 moratorium against medicinal marijuana, the proposed plan could lengthened from its initial 45-day period to up to 22 months or until a new zoning policy is put in place, according to staff.
The potential for a tax windfall from marijuana legalization during times when most locales are grasping at dwindling revenue streams is one of the main talking points of Prop. 19 proponents. A few estimates believe potential growing facilities in San Leandro could net up to $5 million in revenue for the city, but the stigma of crime associated with the drug still pervades the public’s mind along with that of politicians.
During a candidates forum last week in San Leandro, all the candidates for mayor either sidestepped the question of marijuana-related commerce in the city or gave conflicting answers. Stephen Cassidy said he would vote for Prop. 19, but would not advocate for it in San Leandro. Other candidates for mayor have privately said they support Prop. 19, but have been mum publicly on its implications at the local level.