San Jose’s unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries are rallying together to fight new rules that could make it next to impossible to sell marijuana in the city.
Dozens of shop owners joined together to protest the new regulations, adopted by the San Jose City Council last month. The owners were joined by employees and supporters at a rally in front of City Hall July 10.
They used the lure of free weed to encourage people to join the protest, offering a coupon for a free evaluation by an MMJ doctor to the first 1,000 people who showed up. The offer also covered the cost of medical marijuana ID cards.
“We’re passing them out to San Jose residents,” said David Hodges, head of the All-American Cannabis Club. “And there’s nothing wrong with passing out coupons.
Tight Regulations Could Strangle MMJ
The offer is similar to a get-out-the-vote campaign in the weeks leading up to the June municipal election. Several dispensaries gave away free joints to customers who voted, part of a plan to encourage voters to put pro-marijuana pressure on city leaders.
The city council voted June 10 to adopt the new pot-shop rules, which tightly restrict dispensaries in the city. The regulations limit legal dispensaries to less than 1 percent of the city, mostly in industrial zones. That means more than 70 shops will be forced to close.
Growers are also limited in where they can cultivate marijuana. The ordinance adopted by the council requires that weed sold in San Jose be grown in San Jose – or nearby. That greatly restricts the ability of pot collectives to provide an adequate supply of the drug.
Additionally, the ordinance requires round-the-clock security, bans minors from the stores, and prohibits the use of marijuana on dispensary property. The regulations are set to take effect July 18, and businesses will have one year to comply.
Ballot Campaign Could Overturn Rules
It’s not clear what hope protesters have of overturning the rules. The council could revisit the ordinance, but it’s not clear how likely they are to do that. Volunteers are gathering signatures for a campaign to put the ordinance up for a public vote in November.
“With the city’s regulations, it would be virtually impossible to stay open,” Hodges said.
If the 73 unlicensed dispensaries close, the city will lose 1,000 jobs and force many low-income MMJ patients to travel long distances for their medicine. And the city will lose much of the $5 million it collects every year from dispensaries that pay taxes.
But the ballot initiative could collect enough signatures to force the city council to back off the changes, even before the November election. Supporters say they have enough signatures, though they have yet to file their ballot petition.
Residents Want Medical Marijuana
Polls show San Jose residents strongly favor medical marijuana and want it to be available in their city – though they also want to see regulations that keep pot away from kids and cut down on neighborhood crime.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed insisted the tight regulations are what the public wants.
“We need to have strong and effective regulatory ordinance that controls marijuana, keeps it out of our neighborhoods, keeps it out of our school, and keeps it away from our kids,” Reed said.