Pot Measure Set for November Vote

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Analysis: the city council's final cannabis ballot proposal

Assistant News Editor Stephanie Baer talks to reporter Gianna Albaum about the Berkeley city council's final revision of the cannabis ballot measure for the November election.

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Correction Appended

After more than two months of debate, the Berkeley City Council placed a measure on the November ballot Tuesday with several amendments to the city's current Medical Marijuana Ordinance.

The city took large steps in the proposal toward regulating and taxing "cannabusiness," proposing a 2.5 percent business license tax on recognized collectives and dispensaries in the city.

The limit on the number of recognized non-dispensing sites - where collectives can grow, test and bake medical marijuana products - in the city will also rise from zero to six, while the limit on the number of recognized dispensaries will rise from three to four.

Other changes include limiting collectives that do not officially obtain one of the six non-dispensing location permits to a grow space of a maximum of 200 square feet in residential areas only and reconstituting the Medical Marijuana Commission as a typical city commission rather than as an autonomous entity.

Though council members approved raising the limit on non-dispensing locations from four to 10 last week with only Mayor Tom Bates voting "no," they lowered it back down to six Tuesday.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he thought Bates might have "twisted some arms" to pass the lower limit, but Councilmember Linda Maio maintained that she, Bates and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli merely "stepped back" and decided to choose a proposal that was "a little more carefully thought out."

The question of monopolization of the cannabis market continued to pervade the debate, with some arguing that the limits allow the city to better respond to the unforeseen circumstances that arise in the trial regulation of a new trade. Others maintain that the creation of a monopoly will detract from the quality of the cannabis and lead to a "Walmart-style" marijuana industry.

While Bates said further opening up the market would be "a big mistake," Capitelli applauded the fact that the amendment legally provides "no limitation on the number of cultivators."

Because the limit on non-dispensing locations refers to the number of locations allowed rather than the number of cultivators, Capitelli said, several cultivators could legally join together to lease one of the properties.

In an interview Wednesday, Worthington questioned whether Capitelli was serious when he presented this interpretation, saying that it was "entertaining, but unlikely to be realistic."

Either way, representatives of collectives were less enthused by the prospect, with one speaker comparing the sharing of a grow space to sharing a house with roommates who stink.

"(Cultivators) don't want anyone's grow near their grow," Worthington said.

Though the final proposal seemed to represent an even-handed dialogue between the council and "cannabusiness" representatives, Bates and other council members expressed concern that the measure will "scare the public."

However, Worthington dismissed the idea, saying Berkeley voters are "too sophisticated" to think that allowing 10 cultivators to obtain permits would hugely increase the amount of cannabis grown in the city.

While cultivators were displeased with the reduction in non-dispensing sites, Bates stressed the importance of "going slow" in regulating the cannabis industry.

"We're learning to crawl now, and maybe we'll learn to walk in the near future," Bates said.


Correction: Thursday, July 15, 2010
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a rejected substitute amendment was introduced at the meeting, reducing the limit on the number of non-dispensing locations from 10 to six. In fact, the substitute motion increased the limit from six to 10.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Gianna Albaum at [email protected]

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