What happened to the CEQA suit?
When his CEQA appeal (supposedly about the environmental impact of the pot law) came up before the supes, Bill Barnes spoke rapidly and almost incoherently, and then suddenly withdrew the appeal. The whole matter took only a few minutes.
My impression is that his CEQA appeal was a ploy on behalf of the dealers, to gain them time.
They were horrified that Ross Mirkarimi's original bill required them to keep business records, like all other businesses, and to make them open to inspection by the Department of Public Health. They needed time to lean on Mirkarimi to eliminate those provisions.
The CEQA ploy gave them the time they needed. It worked.
Mirkarimi pulled the requirements for records and inspections. He replaced them with the requirement that the dealers submit a written statement once a year to the Department saying they were acting as they should.
All businesses should be so lucky. No records. No taxes. Just put out a statement saying everything is okay.
The dealers were thrilled by the change. At the supes' meeting, they and their supporters showed up wearing little red hearts that said "Support Ross."
We shouldn't fool ourselves about what's happening here. The overall effect of the supes' bill will be to make things easier on affluent, educated neighborhoods, and more difficult on poorer, less educated neighborhoods.
The former will able to hire lawyers and organize effectively to protect themselves from abuse by the dealers. The latter will be turned into doormats for the dealers and their throng of buyers.
It's a familiar pattern isn't it? And all in the name of progressive politics.
Subject: Supes Pass Pot Bill
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005
Supervisor Mirkarimi deserved his round of applause after the ordinance was passed. He did all the heavy lifting, while the other supervisors either kibitzed or obstructed the process. Even the mayor adopted a low profile on the negotiations. What's kind of shocking is that it took us so long---the medical marijuana measure was passed in 1996---to regulate the pot clubs (You call them "dealers," Mirkarimi calls them "dispensaries," and I call them "pot clubs"!) Did we think they would just regulate themselves? 35 clubs still seems like more than we really need. If Oakland can make do with 4, surely San Francisco can do with fewer than 35. Maybe the "mandatory discretionary review" will put the weakest operations out of business, and the strict start-up rules will, in effect, keep new ones from opening, thus lowering the number of clubs in the city overall. Or if someone wants to open a new club, the city could just send them over to Supervisor Daly's office; his district now has 19 of the city's pot clubs, which is evidently okay with him. (District 5 now has 6 clubs.)
But what happened to the Barnes/Daly CEQA suit? There weren't any serious environmental considerations after all?
Subject: Supes Pass Pot Bill
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005
This afternoon (Nov. 15), the supes rapidly passed an amended version of Ross Mirkarimi's "medical cannabis" bill, on a vote of nine to zero. Sean Elsbernd was away on his honeymoon, and Gerardo Sandoval was absent from the chamber, although present for earlier votes.
The action was a swift denouement to a long and tortuous plot. It was made possible by late amendments that Mirkarimi made to the bill to placate critics on both sides of the issue.
The amendments gave the dealers more breathing space in dealing with snooping from the feds, but in effect imposed a cap on the number of dealers at about 35 or so.
For dealers, Mirkarimi deleted the previous requirement that they must keep records of their transactions and be subject to regular inspections. He also grandfathered-in all continuously existing dealers under the provisions of the bill.
For neighborhood advocates, he reduced the permissible sale per visit from half a pound to one ounce, and reduced the number of plants an individual can possess to 24 (down from 99).
He also required that all dealers must undergo a public planning review, where neighbors get a chance to put in their two cents (so-called "mandatory discretionary review").
The bill retains its earlier requirement that all dealers in continuous existence as of April 1 must obtain a permit within 18 months of the ordinance's effective date. Any dealers that started during the recent moratorium, still in effect, must cease operations.
The practical effect of these requirements is to create a virtual cap on the number dealers, equal to the 35 or so, that have been up and running continuously since before April 1.
If pot is smoked on the premises, the dealer must be located at least 1,000 ft from schools and other sensitive institutions. Other existing dealers cannot be located "on the same parcel" as sensitive institutions. The bill is unclear as to the footage involved in a "parcel."
Any dealer who begins business after the ordinance goes into effect, whether the dealer permits smoking on the premises or not, must observe the 1,000-ft rule. This proviso effectively rules out most of the city as possible sites for new dealers.
In arguing for the bill, Mirkarimi said "We've changed the terms of the debate ... We've tried to reconcile all needs."
Chris Daly, who criticized Mirkarimi in the past, today said Mirkarimi "did a good job." Michela Alioto-Pier thanked Mirkarimi for heeding her concerns about the number of plants allowed per person.
When the vote was announced, a roar of applause went up from the audience, from both the supporters and critics of the "medical marijuana" dealers.
The general feeling was that Mirkarimi had pulled off a practical compromise that most people could live with. Whether folks will feel that way a year from now, remains to be seen.
After the vote, Tom Ammiano said "We do really want to help those in need." Then, after a pause, he said "It's a happy synchronicity that Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are here tonight."
And there you have both sides of the cannabis leaf.