Oakland City Council approves medical marijuana regulations

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OAKLAND (BCN) — The Oakland City Council voted unanimously early this morning to amend city ordinances so the city can regulate how medical marijuana is grown, manufactured, transported and distributed in the city.

City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said Oakland has been a national leader in the medical marijuana field since 2004, when it allowed and regulated four medical marijuana dispensaries.

But Kaplan said other parts of the medical cannabis industry, such as growers and manufacturers, have been operating in a gray area and haven’t been regulated until now.

City officials said the amendments to ordinances passed in 2004 will improve public health and safety by establishing a licensing structure for the full spectrum of medical cannabis activities “from seed to sale,” including cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, testing, dispensing and on-site consumption of medical cannabis.

“The city of Oakland is creating a national model for how communities can bring every aspect of this growing sector of our economy into the light,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.”For too long the businesses that provide this invaluable service to Oaklanders have been operating in the shadows. With the passage of these laws, Oakland will be able to ensure the safe production, transport and distribution of medical cannabis, properly regulate and tax these

businesses,” Schaaf said.

Currently there are only eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Oakland, but Kaplan said the amendments, which face a second and final vote on May 17, would allow that number to gradually increase without a cap.

City officials said the eight dispensaries generated more than $4 million in 2015 and they expect the new rules to generate significantly higher revenue because there will be more dispensaries and the other medical marijuana businesses that will be regulated will pay taxes at the city’s elevated medical cannabis business tax rate.

The amendments also require licensed medical cannabis facilities to have a staff consisting of at least 50 percent Oakland residents, including 25 percent from areas of the city with high unemployment rates.

In addition, they gives priority to crime-plagued neighborhoods to offset what city officials say has been the disparate impact of the war on drugs in those communities.

The amendments also state that prior marijuana convictions won’t prohibit someone from owning medical marijuana businesses and encourage businesses to hire and retain Oakland residents who’ve previously been incarcerated.

Schaaf said the amendments “begin to right past wrongs by making it possible for those who have been arrested and incarcerated as a result of failed and inconsistent national drug policies to secure local jobs in this industry.”

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