I guess it’s ironic that the “Rotten City” had become so, well prudish over the past few decades. Emeryville held a Special Study Session prior to Tuesday’s regular council meeting to reconsider our current regulations of Medical Marijuana. Emeryville banned cultivation and distribution of Medical Marijuana within our borders in 2006 through an ordinance. This municipal ban has led to some well publicized raids to the Pelco Warehouse on Halleck and one to a Blue Star Corner resident by the DEA.
Regionally, our neighbors in Berkeley and Oakland both allow for personal cultivation and permitted dispensaries with varying regulations. Emeryville created a Medical Marijuana Task Force to study the issue previously in 2012 but it was disbanded within a year.
The goal of the workshop was to provide a basic understanding of the current framework governing Medical Marijuana, a review of how neighboring cities are regulating it and to achieve direction from Council on how to approach it in our city.
Emeryville’s current effective city ban of “smoke shops” is by virtue of a statute imposing a 1000 ft “buffer” from schools, parks and community gardens. The map below omits nearly the entire city except a small patch in North Emeryville and, again ironically, City Hall and part of the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center home to Michael’s and Babies”R”Us/Toys”R”Us.
Currently medicinal use of Marijuana was made legal through the passing of Prop 215 in 1996. A grey area has been created by the conflict with Federal law that still does not recognize or protect medicinal marijuana possession or use. In 2015, California passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) which established additional regulations for Medical Marijuana. The MMRSA has helped pave the way for local governing of Marijuana and eventual recreational legalization and legitimization of Marijuana as an industry. There are currently four competing measures that could appear on this year’s ballot that could legalize marijuana recreationally as Alaska, Colorado, Oregon & Washington have recently done. There are currently 23 states that allow medicinal use in various forms.
Council discussed the parameters of how a dispensary would operate and how residents could obtain the required medical marijuana cards. “I have heard from people who are in pain,” noted longtime Councilmember Nora Davis. Mayor Dianne Martinez added the potential revenue the city was missing out on by not having a local, taxable dispensary.
Critics of allowing dispensaries have pointed at un uptick in crime as the often cash-based business have been occasional targets of robberies including this well-publicized 2014 Berkeley shooting that bled into our borders and this recent dispensary robbery covered by Berkeleyside. The Emeryville PD offered that a dispensary should be required to provide adequate private security if and when the measure passes. A strong argument has been made that decriminalizing Marijuana use and legitimizing it as a domestic industry might ultimately reduce the violence associated with its trafficking.
A removal of the existing buffer restrictions would allow the dispensary to operate within these boundaries.
Council ultimately called for an “urgency’ ordinance that would immediately lift the ban on the delivery of Medical Marijuana within our borders (something already being done and loosely enforced). Council also paved the way for permitting to allow the operation of at least one dispensary. The dispensary would still have to adhere to the state mandated buffer of 600 ft. from educational facilities. Cultivation was discouraged because of the compactness and mixed-use model of our city and concerns over odor and space constraints. “Let’s leave that to Humboldt” added Council member Atkin noting better uses for out limited space. Action on this could be complete in as little as 30 days and in time for the April 12th council meeting.
Further Reading & Resources:
Emeryville to Legalize Medical Marijuana Deliveries, Dispensary, Labs | EastBayExpress.com
Emeryville will legalize marijuana labs, deliveries and one dispensary | SF Business Times