Northern California

Rules for marijuana use in Alameda now being drafted

ALAMEDA — Possible rules on the use of cannabis in Alameda could be in place at the end of December — or just before when recreational use will become legal under state law on Jan. 1.

The rules are expected to include where dispensaries can be located and where people will be allowed to smoke or ingest marijuana.

The Alameda City Council will consider adopting the regulations “at a special meeting to be scheduled as soon as possible,” Sarah Henry, a spokeswoman for the city, said Wednesday.

The push to figure out how to manage a future local pot industry follows California voters approving the recreational use of the substance in November 2016. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Alameda resident Mark Hersman asked the council on Tuesday, when it held a workshop on cannabis, to allow on-site consumption at designated locations.

Hersman said he plans to seek a permit with his partner to open a members-only social club for pot use, where he said public safety can be promoted because access and the management of their site will be strictly controlled.

But Don Sherratt, a retired administrator in Alameda public schools, urged the council to hold off on allowing cannabis businesses, saying he had witnessed the consequences of drug use among students.

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“Why would Alameda make marijuana more readily available?” Sherratt said.

He also questioned whether the city’s future sales tax revenue from pot — predicted to be up to $1.6 million annually — was behind the drive to allow the businesses to open.

“If money and revenue comes out to be the majority factor, over social ramifications, I sincerely hope that the council will vote no,” Sherratt said.

Gretchen Lipow, a retired teacher, said she witnessed the benefits of marijuana while caring for her husband before he died.

She sometimes visited Oakland’s Harborside dispensary nearby Alameda to get cannabis for him, Lipow said.

“I met all kinds of people, just like me, who were helping their loved ones die,” she said.

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Alameda should capture any tax revenue available, said Dorothy Freeman, who called for clearing the way for more study on cannabis.

“Alameda Point is the perfect place where testing can be housed in a private facility so there are no problems with the (federal government),” Freeman said.

In all, about 25 people spoke during Tuesday’s workshop.

The council voted unanimously to have city officials continue working on the rules, which will likely include requiring a 1,000-foot buffer between the location of a dispensary and schools and parks.

The council also wants the city’s smoking ordinance updated to include vaping and flavored tobacco as part of controlling future marijuana use, and not having Alameda police responsible for issuing permits for pot clubs.

The city’s effort is also expected to include the revision of zoning and other land use regulations to permit marijuana manufacturing in some areas, such as at Harbor Bay Business Park.