OAKLAND — Alameda County may soon allow more medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation and testing sites in its unincorporated communities.

County supervisors have given an initial OK to increasing the number of dispensaries allowed in the unincorporated areas from three to five and prohibiting dispensaries in residential and industrial areas.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]”It would be a disservice to the electorate and constituency of this county to not have regulations in place … and I respect people who disagree with me,” said Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes the unincorporated communities of Cherryland, Castro Valley, Fairview and most of Ashland.

“I feel that, when I make my decisions, I make them based on the homework, the due diligence that I do and my values, and I really think this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Supervisors approved a first reading of the new regulations on a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Keith Carson absent, Aug 1.

The supervisors will consider the set of proposed ordinances once more next month. If they approve the ordinances at that time, the regulations will go into effect after 30 days.

As proposed, no more than three dispensaries would be allowed to open in western Alameda County communities, including Castro Valley, Cherryland, Ashland and San Lorenzo. No more than two dispensaries would be allowed in either Castro Valley or in Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo.

Because there already are dispensaries in Ashland and Cherryland, Castro Valley would be the only place one could open in west county.

Up to three dispensaries can operate in unincorporated Alameda County under existing laws. Two, We Are Hemp and Garden of Eden Medical Marijuana Clinic, were granted dispensary licenses in 2005 and opened in Ashland and Cherryland, respectively.

We are Hemp in Ashland is one of two permitted medical marijuana dispensaries that have been operating in unincorporated Alameda County since 2005. A proposal now being considered by Alameda County leaders could add another two more dispensaries in urban West County and two in rural East County. (Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group)

No more than two dispensaries could open in east county communities, including unincorporated Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore.

The dispensaries would be picked by using a competitive selection process in which proposals are vetted by county staff, supervisors and county advisory boards, such as the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council. On top of getting a permit to open up shop, any new dispensaries would be required to get a conditional use permit and be prohibited in industrial and residential zoning areas.

Dispensaries also must be at least five miles away from each other in the urban west county, while those in the rural east county must be at least a mile away from one another.

“It has been pointed out there are other counties that are going ahead gangbusters — they’re just moving ahead and allowing all sorts of stuff — but I think we’ve done this in a manner that we can live with,” Miley said at the meeting.

The county is also seeking to kick-start a two-year pilot program allowing up to six marijuana cultivators to operate in unincorporated communities. Two permits would be set aside for indoor cultivation operations and four more reserved for mixed-light cultivation operations, such as greenhouses or hoop houses.

As the only two permitted dispensaries in unincorporated Alameda County, We Are Hemp and Garden of Eden will be allowed to apply for marijuana cultivation permit. The remaining cultivation businesses that want to operate in unincorporated Alameda County would have to participate in a competitive selection process reviewed by county staff.

Marijuana cultivation operations would be restricted to agricultural zoning districts and required to maintain a 1,000-foot buffer between other cultivation sites and sensitive areas, such as schools, public parks, playgrounds and licensed child or day care facilities.

Once marijuana cultivators get a permit to operate, they also must obtain a conditional use permit for their growing facility.

Castro Valley resident Vicki Stadelman said she and her husband, Stan, agree that “marijuana is helpful to patients with some medical conditions” and support “oversight and regulation of the cannabis industry” but believe there’s no need to allow marijuana cultivation when it’s already happening in Monterey and Sonoma counties.

County leaders should hold off on approving the medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation laws and wait for the state “to produce appropriate product standards,” Stadelman said.

“Nothing in these ordinances offer protections regarding strength, content or packaging, and nothing in these ordinances protect the product user,” Vicki Stadelman told supervisors at their meeting.

“If we are to treat this as a reputable industry, the product should have standards,” she said.

Oakland resident David Kaufman said he campaigned last year to pass the ballot initiative legalizing the adult use of marijuana and supports the county’s dispensary and cultivation laws.

“I think this ordinance puts the county in a really good place on medical marijuana, which will have safe licensing by the end of the year,” Kaufman told supervisors.

“You guys have really done a good job about moving this forward in a concise and smart way, and it would be a shame to see all of that work be for not and for you to fall behind these other counties, like Los Angeles County, that are looking at this issue,” he said.

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