The City of San Jose may be cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries, but don’t expect weed advocates to go down without a fight.
MMJ activists filed a petition Jan. 13 to ask voters whether they want to keep dispensaries in business throughout town. The move is intended to cut off city leaders before they can even enact their planned ban on pot shops.
Last month the city started sending letters to dispensaries located near homes, threatening them with big fines and criminal prosecution if they don’t close. Soon the city council is expected to pass a proposal to effectively prohibit dispensaries in the entire city.
The Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, which filed the petition, doesn’t want to see that happen. They hope they can force the council to retreat, just as they did in 2011. That year, council members gave up on tough rules on pot shops after marijuana advocates collected enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
The coalition’s initiative, though, aims more than a little higher than that. It seeks to establish a “minimum” of 50 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Jose without shutting any that are currently in business. New stores would only be prevented from opening within 1,000 feet of a school – and minors could toke up in “rare cases” if a doctor approves.
Californians have a long and fractured relationship with medical marijuana, one that’s playing out in San Jose. Voters in the Golden State usually support marijuana reform at the polls, but then repeatedly elect local leaders who vow to eradicate pot in an effort to look tough on crime. Pot is a great idea, it turns out, as long as you can buy it in someone else’s neighborhood.
The situation is especially tense in San Jose, where eight of ten council members are running for office, five of them to replace the outgoing mayor. None of them want to look like they’re caving to the marijuana industry, especially when complaints about dispensaries are up.
“I certainly do not want to see us back down,” said Council Member Rose Herrera, who is running for mayor. The pot shops “have proven to me that they do not want to be regulated. They are going to oppose anything we do – so we need to ban them.”
There are currently about 80 dispensaries in San Jose. Although medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, a ruling by the state Supreme Court last year allows cities, towns and counties to zone pot shops out of business.
After filing a “notice of intent” Jan. 13, the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition has until May 16 to gather 20,372 signatures in order to make it onto the November ballot.
Political combat over dispensaries may soon be a thing of the past. Initiatives to legalize all marijuana are in the works for this year and 2016, and recent polls have registered strong voter support for the idea. Once cannabis is legal in California, getting it should be much easier for everyone, patients included.