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San Leandro Begins Opening Door to Dispensaries

The City of San Leandro is moving closer to allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

On Sept. 16, the City Council voted 5-2 to move forward with a draft ordinance and changes to the zoning code that would allow two dispensaries in San Leandro. Now the zoning amendments will go before the Board of Zoning Adjustments and the Planning Commission before returning to the council for a final vote.

San Leandro’s First Marijuana Dispensary Policy

Like hundreds of other cities, towns and counties in California, San Leandro has banned dispensaries. The city passed a one-year moratorium on them in 2010, which was renewed in 2011.

But that prohibition expired in September 2012, and the city began drafting a dispensary ordinance, believing municipalities couldn’t completely ban them under the 1996 medical marijuana law. When the California Supreme Court ruled in May that such prohibitions were permitted, San Leandro was faced with a choice: ban pot shops permanently or find a way to work with them.

Working with Dispensaries, Not Against

Like a small but growing number of communities scattered across the state, city leaders chose the latter. Council members cited patient access, decreases in crime associated with dispensaries, and ties between medical marijuana and the tech industry – which San Leandro wants to attract.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Vice Mayor Jim Prola said at the council meeting Sept. 16. “You can’t say you’re for medical marijuana and be against dispensaries.”

Mayor Stephen Cassidy voted in favor of the changes, but said he wanted to limit the number of pot shops to one. That number was set at two, but can be changed later.

weed-jar

Siding With Marijuana

The two council members who voted against the ordinance and zoning changes said they favored putting the issue to voters. A petition with more than 850 signatures opposing the changes was presented to the council, but many of the speakers at the meeting backed the proposal.

Diana Prola, Jim Prola’s wife and member of a local school board, said she saw medical marijuana help a close friend dying of cancer. And dispensaries don’t pose a threat to children, she said.

“Teenagers have access to marijuana right now if they want it,” Diana Prola said. “However, if it’s regulated, they aren’t going to get it from the medical clinics.”

Gregg Daly, a retired police officer and Army veteran, said weed helps him and other retired service members. Daly was involved in an accident in 2004, after which he took prescription drugs for what he called “the worst two and a half years of my life.”

“You sentence us to take synthetic heroin over marijuana and you sentence us to addiction, suicide and fatal overdoses,” he said. “We have been on Vicodin too long. We have been on Percocet too long.”

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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