Alameda Mayor Tish Herrera Spencer

The push for cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities in recent years in Oakland and San Leandro has long eluded Alameda where a moratorium has made the burgeoning industry a non-starter in local politics. That appears to be changing and quickly after the Alameda City Council laid at a short timeline that will soon begin the debate over dispensaries as early as September.

A referral brought forward by Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer that has languished on the council’s agenda for more than a month, revealed a council more than willing to begin the groundwork for a cannabis policy that may include permitting for dispensaries and various means of cannabis production on the island.

Spencer said Wednesday that she hopes the city expedites the process, specifically related to cannabis dispensaries. During the meeting, she spoke at length about her previous bout with breast cancer and the debilitation symptoms that followed due to chemotherapy.

Alameda resident with a valid cannabis card need to travel to Oakland and San Francisco for information, she said. “At this point, many of us, or those who know people with serious health issues, unfortunately, they’re not able to purchase in town,” said Spencer. “Time is critical, which is why I brought this referral.”

The council voted to proceed with the referral, 4-1, with Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft voting no. However, city staff was already in the process of compiling data on the issue, said City Manager Jill Keimach. A similar cannabis referral was offered last year by Councilmember Jim Oddie.

Keimach expects a cannabis industry consultant to address the council at the first meeting in September. In addition, a general quality of life survey sent by the city to residents, said Keimach, will include a question about the potential for allowing the cannabis industry to do business in Alameda.

One defining feature of Spencer’s referral is the possibility of forming an ordinance that would favor potential cannabis permits for Alameda residents. Oddie raised the possibility of crafting an ordinance that could bifurcate the permitting process to include outside and local cannabis businesses owners.

Spencer, however, was clear that she wants dispensaries in Alameda “sooner than later” and seeks to avoid a lengthy debate on the issue similar to the year-long discussion recently concluded for the city’s animal shelter contract.

Spencer’s support for a dispensaries in Alameda was so clear that one public speaker belonging to a local group of cannabis entrepreneurs offered Spencer advice, at another time, for tailoring a specific strain of cannabis to help medicate whatever ails the mayor. Spencer appeared receptive to the offer.

But, any ordinance allowing the cannabis business in Alameda, will not have the authority to tax business licenses or sales until November 2018, at the earliest. Keimach says the likelihood for placing a tax-generating initiative on the ballot next year is also being studied.