Activists organize to educate San Jose at the ballot box
By David Burton
When they passed their medical marijuana ordinance in September, San Jose city council members had hoped to finally put a lid on what one member called “the problem” of cannabis dispensaries in the community. What they got instead was a medical marijuana community galvanized against them as never before.
Outraged by a laundry list of regulations they see as unworkable and unfair, compassionate-use activists have launched two signature-gathering efforts to qualify a pair of measures to put before city voters. One is a referendum, spearheaded by the grassroots group Citizens Coalition for Patient Care (CCPC), to repeal the ordinance. The other, a ballot initiative organized by the Cannabis Patient Alliance (CPA), would ask residents to approve what proponents say would be a vastly better ordinance than the existing one.
“We’re not saying there shouldn’t be guidelines,” says Matthew Witemyre, co-chair of the Citizens Coalition for Patient Care, which is working to qualify the referendum. “We just believe there should be reasonable guidelines that actually reflect what’s happening in the industry right now.”
In November 2010, local voters passed Measure U, which placed a 7-percent tax on the gross receipts of all dispensaries. A May 27 internal city memo shows that San Jose gained about $1.12 million in business tax revenue from dispensaries in the last four months of fiscal year 2010-11.
The new regulations include requiring all cannabis and edibles to be grown/prepared on site, requiring dispensaries to have an on-site doctor or nurse and limiting dispensaries allowed in the city to 10–meaning about 130 medical marijuana shops currently operating in San Jose must go, at the loss of an estimated 1,500 jobs.
City officials did not return calls for comment. About 40,000 signatures must be collected by the end of October to qualify for the ballot.
“That’s where it’s important for the community to get together and educate the public about medical cannabis, what’s needed for patients to have the access they need, and for the general community’s rights to be respected,” CPA president and local cannabis activist Sean Cambern says.
Article from Culture Magazine and republished with special permission