San Jose sets limits for pot clubs

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday approved a law with tight restrictions on where medical marijuana collectives are located but which permits them to grow plants in counties bordering Santa Clara County, according to a spokeswoman.

The council passed the planned new set of zoning and operation rules for the collectives by a 7 to 3 vote Tuesday, a week after the council voted 5 to 5 in a failed attempt to pass it. The panel will take up the ordinance again for a second, final enactment next Tuesday.

The set of regulations included provisions advocated by Mayor Chuck Reed, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and Councilmen Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi Oliverio in light of 78 collectives that currently operate illegally in San Jose, Reed spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said.

San Jose has had no regulations on marijuana collectives since 2012, when the council repealed a law governing them and then budget cutbacks prevented the city from paying for code enforcers to close them.

Reed wanted to enact strong regulations on marijuana collectives to protect children, homes and businesses from drug cartels and gangs that use medical marijuana illegally, to comply with federal guidelines and make sure those with serious illnesses have access to the drug, McGurk said.

One key provision in the new city law would allow collectives to cultivate marijuana off-site at separate grow areas in San Jose, Santa Clara County or in a county contiguous to Santa Clara, McGurk said.

The amendment was a concession of sorts to collectives, as the San Jose city staff had recommended that all collectives be made to grow their product only within the city limits.

But the collectives would still have to adhere to a “closed loop” system when cultivating the marijuana, whereby each is required to cultivate all of the plants that they process and sell, McGurk said.

The closed loop system was included in the ordinance to comply with federal guidelines for tracking marijuana from where it is grown to where it is sold to make sure it is coming from legal and not criminal sources, McGurk said.

The law would exclude marijuana collectives from locating within 1,000 feet of public and private schools, child daycare centers, community centers and libraries.

In another compromise for the collectives, the law would allow them to be within 50 feet of one another, instead of 1,000 feet as had been proposed before.

Each collective would have to be at least 150 feet away from residences and from major San Jose employment areas such as North San Jose, Edenvale and the International Business Park, according to McGurk.

Minors would be excluded from the collectives to prevent marijuana from being sold or given to them and no one would be permitted to loiter in the parking lots or outside the collectives.

No on-site consumption of the marijuana would be allowed at the collectives, which could be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. only and would have to have security guards and at each site. The collectives also would be required to use cash in sales transactions.

If the new law is passed a second time next week, the regulation would become effective within 30 days. After that, the collectives now running afoul of the law would have 90 days to apply with the city to verify compliance with zoning regulations and then up to one year to move to a place that would comply with the ordinance.

In order to remain in business in the city, each collective would have to be current in paying its city marijuana business taxes and have no code violations.

— Jeff Burbank, Bay City News