OAKLAND -- The Oakland City Council voted in closed session Tuesday to suspend implementation of its program to permit and tax industrial-sized medical marijuana cultivation businesses and increase the number of dispensaries until the new cultivation law can be amended to address concerns expressed by law enforcement.
The city voted in July to license and regulate large cultivation operators who will grow and produce medical marijuana. The council also recently voted to increase the number of cannabis dispensaries from four to eight.
After Tuesday's vote, today's deadline to apply for a cultivation permit was suspended until further notice. Applicants who received an identification number from the city will be notified.
The council will consider amendments to its cultivation ordinance at its Feb. 1 meeting. The council made its decision after Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley wrote a letter to Mayor-elect Jean Quan warning that the city's efforts to license and tax the grow businesses would likely be considered illegal under state law and those who approved the law could be subject to prosecution by her office.
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."
The council discussed O'Malley's concerns in closed session and voted 7-1 to direct the city administrator to revise the ordinance to allow it to conform to state law and address concerns how medical marijuana is distributed. Nancy Nadel voted no.
One option might 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.
A closed loop system would make sure that licensed growers will only provide the drug to their patients via a licensed dispensary, said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a co-author of the cultivation ordinance.
Kaplan said she was amenable to amending the ordinance and had already begun looking at the differences between Oakland and Berkeley's cultivation ordinances. Berkeley also plans to issue cultivation permits but it has not yet been contacted by law enforcement.
Nadel voted no because she did not receive assurances that the council also would reopen discussions about the appropriate number of cultivation permits issued by the city.