Clearing the Air on Cannabis Code

 

Hello Member Ashcraft:
Thank you for learning so much about the cannabis industry in such a short amount a time. It’s definitely a learning curve, and I appreciate the effort you have put forth to educate yourself on an industry that is unfamiliar territory. The more knowledge of the industry one possesses, the better prepared one is when voting to regulate such an industry. 

The following are comments and corrections regarding your  recent commentary:

Going slow: This makes sense, but I would like to remind you that no action was made regarding regulating cannabis businesses for nearly six months after a councilmember’s referral, hence the Mayor’s referral. I frequently contacted members of staff to learn of the progress, and as of April 20, staff hadn’t begun working on their report. According to the the Council Referral Tracker, a decision on cannabis was to follow desicions made regarding the animal shelter. Staff could have begun laying out some of the foundations of the proposal much earlier, which is admittedly highly detailed, and likely much different than anything they have done in their past. After waiting 20 years, how much slower can things possibly go? By advocating to go slower, we are giving staff the green light to put off their work longer.

Delivery: You mentioned that Alameda patients can get cannabis “delivered to their homes” yet Alameda Municipal Code 30-5.15 explicitly bans mobile dispensary, by definition: “Medical marijuana dispensary means any facility or location, whether fixed or mobile, where medical marijuana is provided, sold, made available, or otherwise distributed to one or more of the following: a primary caregiver, a qualified patient or a person with an identification card.” Alameda’s own Rob Bonta was quoted in a recent article saying, “It is our intent to provide more regulations around deliveries.” 

Taxes: It is correct that sales tax for recreational cannabis has not  gone to the voters, and that adult users will be paying taxes on cannabis, but that transition has not happened yet. Alameda has been losing out on tax revenue to Oakland because medical patients have been, and are, currently charged tax at dispensaries. Alameda needs to make sure to have a cannabis tax on the next ballot, not brushing it under the rug by saying we aren’t losing tax dollars. We most certainly have been losing out for the past decade. A way to get past the voter initiative is to place fees on different kinds of business actions. i.e. a fee of gross sales receipts instead of relying on voters to approve a tax ballot measure. 

Testing labs: Labs contract their business through other businesses, and it is reasonably predicted that safety and efficacy cannabis testing labs will be the higher-end revenue generating businesses starting in 2018. Because there currently aren’t many labs, and all products need to be tested, there is projected to be a bottleneck in the testing industry due to the need for rapid turn-around. Supply and demand dictates that analytical test fees will increase because of that bottleneck. While we don’t want to over-tax or fee-burden the industry, we can’t ignore that labs will be the expected money-making part of the industry.

Public health concerns: If you type in “cannabis child resistant” into the Leginfo website, you will find that 10 bills this legislative session were issued to define and regulate child resistant packaging. They were combined into SB-663, which was enrolled on Aug. 25.

Legal issues on Alameda Point: Alameda is in a unique position regarding land-ownership on the Point. It would be incredibly inspiring for our Council to take the side of sickly medical cannabis patients and allow safe access on the Island in the same fashion that they have done immigrants, by passing our sanctuary city status.

Public safety: A single cannabis plant’s value is rarely, if ever, worth “$10,000 (wholesale).” Laws need to be made considering evidence-based conclusions, not one based on one-off personal anecdotes that likely came from an exaggerating cultivator boasting, or law enforcement “bust” information. Law enforcement has a notorious history of valuing their “busts” based on how many joints could be rolled and the price those could be sold to a consumer. This is not an accurate representation of wholesale value.  

Zoning: The double standard for alcohol establishments is especially apparent regarding zoning and driving expectations. I attended Alameda High School. There is a liquor store literally right across the street, and Alameda’s Spirits Alley pretty much requires people to drive to it. Although I don’t want kids to have access to cannabis, the proposed 1,000-foot zoning requirement is over the top, and parents on the Island agree. 

Electricity use: Cannabis cultivators want to cut their electricity costs. A general rule is that it costs about $100-200 per 1,000-watt light per month. Many cultivators who are looking into spaces on the base are interested in solar panels to decrease their costs. If permitted, growers can look into ways to source their own electricity and lower the burden on Alameda Municipal Power to provide all of their electricity.

In addition I’d like to address some other concerns not mentioned in the commentary.

Paying employees in cash: Social Security and other taxes are taken out of our checks. Employee paychecks contain the same deductions and they are required to file taxes like everyone else. Cannabis businesses follow human resources requirements like every other hourly business. The cash nature of the industry should not require additional audits unless an employee files a complaint. Cannabis businesses have rarely taken advantage of their employees because they risk having their business reported to officials.

Thank you so much for reading this, and the associated articles within. I realize that it is quite lengthly, but I think this is a great opportunity to educate the public regarding many of your statements and better prepare you for a vote to regulate cannabis businesses on the Island.

 

 

The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter in response to Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft’s recent commentary (“Cannabis Conundrum Confounds Community,” Sept. 14). It has been edited due to space constraints. 

Editor’s note: To read more from this letter and see Golden’s research on the topic, join the Alameda Island Cannabis Community on Facebook.