Mayor Presents Marijuana Proposal to Subcommittee

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In response to Berkeley's growing cannabis market, Mayor Tom Bates presented a controversial proposal to tax and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives in a meeting Wednesday.

The Medical Marijuana Subcommittee, which was created to evaluate ways the city can regulate dispensaries and collectives, extended its discussion past the originally planned four meetings to consider revisions to Bates' proposal and ultimately send it to the Berkeley City Council for approval.

The proposal outlined several changes to existing law, including zoning limitations on collectives and dispensaries, a tax on dispensaries, a reduced buffer of 500 feet between schools and dispensaries and an allotment of an additional non-dispensing location for each dispensary.

Bates' proposal includes a provision that, if recreational use were legalized in November, would create a tax of $100 on every $1,000 of gross receipts of the sale of non-medical cannabis.

In November, California voters will decide whether to legalize sale of cannabis for recreational use to adults 21 and older.

During the meeting, many dispensary and collective members argued that Oakland's 1.8 percent tax on "cannabusiness" gross profits was too high.

Bates said Oakland's tax is too low and instead proposed a 2.5 percent tax which elicited an audible gasp from the audience. Last year, Oakland became the first city in the nation to impose a special business tax on medical marijuana dispensaries.

In response to concerns about the implications of 2008's Measure JJ, the subcommittee suggested reducing the 1,000-foot buffer zone between schools and dispensaries to 500 feet and including private schools under the regulation.

"What was the rationale behind the 1,000-foot buffer zone?" said Councilmember Darryl Moore. "I don't think there's anything magical about that number."

Though Bates did not address the three-dispensary limit in his proposal, he suggested the city open all commercial zones to dispensaries.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli expressed hesitance about the proposed change.

"I'm not sure that at this point we're ready to say, 'Sure, you can go into any commercial space,'" he said. "We don't want to have ... three big box dispensaries dominating the entire market."

Bates also proposed that collectives, who often grow their own product, be restricted to residential zones with cultivation capped at 100 square feet per residence - a limit that collectives argued was not enough space to grow their product.

Additionally, Bates proposed the city require dispensaries that acquire non-dispensing locations to allot one-tenth of their cannabis to very low-income patients.

The subcommittee, made up of Councilmembers Capitelli, Linda Maio, Moore, as well as Mayor Bates, will meet next week to discuss the proposal. Bates said he hopes to solidify a proposal to present to the council by June 29.

"Next week we should zero in on this (proposal)," he said. "We're at the point where we need to make decisions."

As some collective and dispensary members expressed frustration with some of the stricter regulations proposed, Councilmember Max Anderson said "there are bound to be things that are more acceptable or less ... this is subject to alterations and additions."


Contact Gianna Albaum at

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