COUNCIL VOTES 4-3 AGAINST ORDINANCE CITING ONE-SIDED ARGUMENT BY CITY STAFF
By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter
The likilihood of medical marijuana returning in the future to San Leandro received another reprieve Monday night as the city council narrowly voted down, 4-3, an ordinance prohibiting the trade within city limits.
Over the past 18 months, council, law enforcement and city staff have followed a rigidly conservative and often times hands-off approach to similar pushes to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shopin San Leandro. A moratorium was placed on future related business applications last November running until the end of this September, but a ordinance superceding the moratorium indefinitely was placed before the council.
Councilmembers Jim Prola, Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter and Vice Mayor Michael Gregory voted in opposition of the ordinance. While Reed and Cutter’s comments suggested approval of the ban both voted against. Prola and Gregory urged for more information along with a cautious approach while neighboring Oakland sorts out its legal strategy in their more medical marijuana-friendly business environment. Both dissenting councilmen also pointed to a lack factual balance in the staff report solely featuring a nearly 400-page white paper compiled by the California Police Chiefs Association.
“I think there should have been a balance other than the police chief’s white paper,” said Gregory. “To ignore it or prohibit it is not honest and don’t think mature.” Gregory said the city is not approaching the unrelegated pot problem in a “rational way.”
Prola, who has easily been medical marijuana’s most staunch supporter on the council, criticized the use of the report while zeroing in on a passage saying marijuana’s medicinal properties have never been shown to be effective. He said a quick online search returned a bevy of information to the contraying. “To say this report is fair and balanced is to say Fox News is fair and balanced,” said Prola.
“I honestly believe the crime is created by the prohibition,” argued Prola, who later said, “We’re allowing gangs and drug cartels to fill in the gap. We’re encouraging crime by not regulating it and controlling it like other cities are doing.”
Prola believes the legalization of medical marijuana in California is a mere formality in the next few voting cycles and questions whether the city is prepared to handle the future business and legal landscape. “Eventually it is coming here and we’re not prepared for it,” said Prola. San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister said there are no plans currently in the works for such a scenario.
Genuine enthusiasm from the three members in favor of the ban was somewhat light. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak said a sufficient supply of medical marijuana was available to San Leandro residents in nearby cities and unincorporated areas of Alameda County. Although Councilwoman Diana Souza said it is never too late to debate a point, she followed by saying, “Right now is not the time to change the direction that we’re going with this.”
In response to inquiries by Mayor Stephen Cassidy into the make-up of those purportedly growing and selling marijuana ilicitly in the city, she said “Those people are not selling to dispensaries,” while adding, “More dispensary drugs are getting into hands of children.”