Should San Leandro forbid marijuana dispensaries and/or growing operations, or allow sale and/or cultivation, subject to regulations yet to be written?
A report prepared by the city's staff urges the City Council to just say no to pot when it hold its regular meeting tonight.
Specifically, staff members want council permission to prepare an ordinance that would "prohibit the establishment and operation of medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the city of San Leandro."
An analysis by police officials paints marijuana as a magnet for crime, a blight upon neighborhoods and a scourge on individuals.
The staff report, which is posted on the city's website, includes these excerpts:
- Since 2011, SLPD has seized over 17,627 plants worth over $24 million by police estimates. Add $645,000 of bagged pot, and police have seized about $25 million in contraband.
- Approximately 85 percent of the plants seized were grown in residential neighborhoods. Grow homes "are often eyesores in our community."
- The report detailed several instances of crime associated with the pot trade, from the gunman who during a stakeout, to the fire on Warwick Street in which a firefighter was injured while fighting a blaze in a .
The staff analysis does not include contradictory research, such as a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs that disputes the "crime magnet" argument.
"Density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates," wrote two researchers in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The study looked at dispensaries in Sacramento, according to a story in U.S. News and World Report. It did not deal with growing operations.
Shades of "Reefer Madness"
In the staff analysis being presented to the council, SLPD also makes the case that pot is harmful:
"Research has shown that you are more likely to make a bad decision while under the influence of marijuana that could include driving a vehicle, making unsafe sexual choices and trying other dangerous drugs. The short term effects from using marijuana include problems concentrating, anxiety, paranoid thoughts, increased heart rate and memory impairment. The long term effects include respiratory problems, mental problems and several studies have shown that if a person uses an addictive substance such as marijuana before the age of 18, that person is six times more likely to develop a substance use disorder."
Such arguments harken back to the theme of "Reefer Madness," the 1936 melodrama about the pernicious effects of marijuana on youth. (A brief clip from the movie is attached as a YouTube video.)
To this day there remains a cultural divide between those who want to keep marijuana illegal, and those who want to legalize and regulate it like alcohol.
Medical marijuana in California is an attempt to straddle that divide.
San Leandro's indecision
The city council will also consider the stances taken by other local jurisdictions -- which range from marijuana-friendly Oakland and Berkeley to pot-prohibiting Alameda and Newark. (See attached chart for details.)
San Leandro's lawmakers have gone back and forth on the issue in recent years, mostly in the direction of banning marijuana.
In October 2010, the City Council adopted a 45-day ban on any type of pot facility, and later extended that moratorium until September 30, 2011.
In February 2011, the council directed staff to prepare an ordinance prohibiting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Cultivation Facilities.
But in May 2011 the council put off a decision on a ban and asked a survey of what other cities in Alameda County are doing. At the same time councilmembers extended the moratorium on pot facilities until September 30 of this year.
In essence, what the city staff is urging tonight is that the council make that temporary ban permanent before the moratorium expires.