After the San Jose City Council passed a new law earlier limiting pot shops in the city, it became clear dispensaries that refuse to close would face fines.
As of now, that means just $25. But if the council adopts a new ordinance now under consideration, the fine would increase 2,000 percent, to as much as $50,000. The plan is part of an ongoing effort to crush medical marijuana in San Jose.
The council voted this summer to limit medical cannabis dispensaries to less than 1 percent of the city, a move that pot proponents say will eventually leave San Jose with no shops at all.
Now city leaders are considering a fine increase to further the crackdown. The San Jose Police Department is asking for greater financial leverage to shut down the businesses. But to pro-pot activists, that just means patients will turn to the black market.
“The more fines they make on legitimate operations, the easier they make it for drug dealers,” said Dave Hodges, who owns a local dispensary.
The underlying problem is acute in California, due largely to the aggressive nature of marijuana foes. They’re often the loudest voices in the argument because they don’t want anything in their backyards. It’s NIMBY at its worst.
Hundreds of communities across the state, from towns to counties, have enacted ordinances that ban dispensaries. The law that allows these businesses is vague, so pot advocates have had an uphill climb trying to fight back the onslaught of restrictions.
It’s ironic, then, that most California voters still support medical weed. The problem is, it’s note a very active group, politically. Opponents have much more personal motivation to fight, since they view it as a moral crusade, while stoners basically just want to live their lives.
The dispensary restrictions in San Jose were adopted over the summer. But the city council delayed action on the proposal to jack up fines. A decision could be made on that issue as early as November. Some council members said they want to help cops shut down dispensaries.
“We need to have some remedy, some way of getting folks to do the right thing and, unfortunately, sometimes fines are what work,” Council member Rose Herrera said.
Under the proposal, the fine for first violations would be increased to $2,5000. Violations of record-keeping requirements or operations laws would cost between $5,000 and $10,000. The most serious offenses would carry a penalty of between $10,000 and $50,000.
San Jose had nearly 100 pot shops when the restrictions were adopted in the summer. Just seven have received preliminary approval to stay, and it’s possible each of those will ultimately be rejected.