San Leandro Takes Another Shot At Enacting Long-Term Pot Dispensary Ordinance

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | If not for lack of political will or systemic willingness to follow Oakland’s lead on the legal front regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, the San Leandro City Council next week will again take steps to blot out any chance of the growing business flowering within their city limits. A staff report issued Wednesday recommends the council begin ironing out various land use regulations prohibiting the dispensaries and grow sites from San Leandro.

The city’s work on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries extends nearly two years. After a series of moratoriums and postponements on accepting business applications for dispensaries in San Leandro, the last, of which ends Sept. 30, the question of whether to allow the potentially lucrative tax receipts from regulating medical marijuana has sat on the backburner, yet the perception of a potential public safety problem persists.

The San Leandro Police Department says over 17,000 marijuana plants have been seized since 2011, according to a staff report. The department says the haul represents a street value of over $24 million. Despite law enforcement’s abhorrence toward allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, some on the council, in the past, have chided both police and staff for flimsy and poorly sourced evidence against the perceived scourge of pot.

San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola, easily the most amendable to dispensaries on the council, two years ago pointed to the ubiquity of marijuana growing in the city as not a problem, but a chance to tax and regulate the growing trade. The impetus for enacting an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries in 2010, in large part, arose from the fervor around the potential of Proposition 219–the measure that sought to legalize marijuana in California–and interest from a Southern California group seeking to set up a grow-site on Williams Street.

The likelihood of San Leandro passing an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries is high. In the past, only Prola and Councilman Michael Gregory have showed any interest in welcoming dispensaries, while their colleagues have consistently toed a more conservative line against marijuana. Any ordinance, if enacted, will likely be based upon existing nuisance laws. According to the staff report, there is precedent for local municipalities to restrict dispensaries to certain districts and regulating them. In effect, it would ban activities such as legally distributing medical marijuana and related businesses within San Leandro’s city limits.

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