Oakland Suspends Plan For Huge Marijuana Farms


Photo: Boots & Sabers
When told they could go to jail for Oakland’s new ordinance allowing large-scale marijuana farming, city council members voted to suspend and revise it.

​The Oakland City Council voted 7-1 in closed session on Tuesday to suspend its program to permit and tax four industrial-sized medical marijuana farms and increase the number of dispensaries, at least until the new cultivation plan can be amended to address objections voiced by law enforcement.

The decision came after Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley warned earlier this month that the large-scale commercial growing operations envisioned by city officials could be illegal under state law. O’Malley also said members of the City Council could be prosecuted by her office if they approved the plan, reports Cecily Burt at the Oakland Tribune.
The City Council had voted in July to license and regulate large cultivation operations which would grow and produce medical marijuana. The council also recently voted to double the number of cannabis dispensaries from four to eight.

Alameda County District Attorney’s Office
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley threatened to jail the Oakland City Council if they approved large-scale marijuana farming.

​After Tuesday’s vote, the December 21 deadline to apply for cultivation permits was suspended until further notice. Applicants who received an identification number from the city will be notified. Dozens of people have expressed interest in operating the large scale growing operations, report Sajid Farooq and Lori Preuitt at NBC Bay Area.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo also wrote a letter to the council last month warning that federal law enforcement officials had “expressed concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law.”
After discussing O’Malley’s concerns in closed session, the council voted 7-1 to direct the city administrator to revise the ordinance to allow it to conform to state law and address concerns over how medical marijuana is distributed.
Councilmember Nancy Nadel cast the lone no vote. Nadel said she voted no because she did not receive assurances that the council would also reopen discussions about the appropriate number of cultivation permits issued by the city.
One option being considered could result in a combined cultivation and dispensary ordinance to address concerns that the city’s existing ordinance did not clearly define a “closed loop” system of distribution.
A closed loop system would make sure that licensed growers will only provide marijuana to patients via a licensed dispensary, according to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who co-authored the ordinance.
Kaplan said she was OK with amending the ordinance, and had already begun looking at the differences between Oakland’s and Berkeley’s cultivation laws.  Berkeley also plans to issue cultivation permits, but has not yet been contacted by law enforcement.
The council will consider amendments to its cultivation ordinance at its February 1 meeting.