Medical Cannabis Commission Delays Continue

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The city of Berkeley's delay in reconstituting its Medical Cannabis Commission - the group that will set standards governing changes to the city's medical marijuana distribution and growth facilities - continues as only five of nine members have been appointed.

Four months ago, citizens voted to reconstitute the commission through Measure T, and though the current number of commissioners is enough to meet quorum, commission secretary Wendy Cosin said the commission will not meet until the Berkeley City Council has appointed all members.

Current appointees include Toya Groves, Stewart Jones, Kunal Dalal, Charles Pappas and Loy Sheflott, representing Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8, respectively.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin brought Jones to the commission table - already known in the community for running against Councilmember Gordon Wozniak in November's District 8 council seat race.

Jones said Arreguin asked him to be on the commission, and though he was hesitant to accept at first, he said he is interested in shaping the "emerging economy" that the medical marijuana scene brings to Berkeley, as it will be important in terms of issues of land use, environmental regulation and public safety.

"I hate weed culture, but I understand that it's important to provide the legal framework to the industry," Jones said.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli asked Dalal - who is currently the acting principal at Berkeley Technology Academy - to join the commission. Dalal said he hopes to bring a focus on youth marijuana usage to the commission.

"My main focus really is trying to bring a narrative around cannabis and its effects on youth here in Berkeley and also around the state and the country," Dalal said. "In the midst of all of this push for legalization and medical usage, the one thing that hasn't been addressed is ... the effects that this drug has on developing brains."

Last May, Pappas - a 36-year Berkeley resident and homeowner who serves as chair of the board of directors of the Divinity Tree Patients Wellness Collective, a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco - sent letters to the City Council criticizing the city's standstill in terms of medical cannabis discussion. He also submitted a ballot measure proposal entitled "Medical Cannabis Fairness Act."

Pappas, who applied to join the commission, said he has been disappointed with the city's medical cannabis framework. The former Medical Cannabis Commission, he said, was "a joke" in that it was made up of two commissioners from each cannabis dispensary.

"Essentially, it was the foxes guarding the henhouse - every vote was unanimous; Wendy basically held their hands and told them what to do," Pappas said.

Measure T states that the council will appoint members of the commission and stipulates that of the nine commissioners, at least one must be a member of a dispensary, one of a collective that is not a dispensary and one a cultivator not associated with a single dispensary but provides cannabis to more than one dispensary.

Pappas said he does not understand the city's current delay in reconstituting the commission.

"Instead of the legislature staying out, it's the legislature refusing to appoint enough people," he said. "They say, 'Oh we can't meet because we don't have enough people,' and now that we have enough people, it's 'Oh, we can't meet because we can't have the chairman and vice chairman picked out without everyone being there.'"

Sheflott has also been active in the medical marijuana scene before - according the city's website, Sheflott was signatory to a rebuttal argument against the passage of Measure T, which aims to "tell the council to do better."

Council members who have yet to submit their appointments include Linda Maio, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington, in addition to Mayor Tom Bates.

According to Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Bates, the mayor is planning to submit his recommendation soon.

"He's been thinking about who and what area that he'd want someone to represent and looking at some of the other folks people are appointing," Sinai said.

She added that Bates will interview possible candidates, unless he plans to appoint someone with whom he has already worked.


Sarah Mohamed covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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