Institutional Memory and the Vallejo Cannabis Industry

The Vallejo City Council wisely decided on Tuesday evening to put off action on a draft medical cannabis ordinance a week before the election that would have created more problems than it solved.  Listening to the discussion by Council and staff it was hard to tell where some of the proposals even came from.  After paid consultants, city staff, and community volunteers labored for months beyond the due date, the draft ordinance arrived an orphan at birth.  Nobody, for example, professed to want the provision that would prevent a transfer of  financial interest in a medical cannabis dispensary, which raises the obvious question of how it came to be there in the first place.  How much time and money did we spend this time to produce a work product that falls so far short of what we need?

The self-congratulatory tone of the JumpStart councilmembers was jarring for those who followed the process that got us here.  It was like a group of hostages expecting praise for having come so far with a gun at their head.  Verder-Aliga reminds us that she broke with the mayor during her dizzying series of flip-flops to vote against a total dispensary ban.  She wants us to forget that her vote to regulate instead was only under the condition that the Council would allow no more than two medical cannabis dispensaries in the entire City.  Every bit of the progress they want to celebrate now has been forced on them by voters.
Incumbent Council candidate Verder-Aliga touts the value of the current council’s “institutional memory” in wanting to hold a study session in December before the new council is seated.  (The inference we’re meant to draw is that all her experience with the cannabis issue now merits her re-election).  At the same time she displays the depth of her ignorance by suggesting that a comprehensive ordinance dealing with all aspects of the nascent cannabis industry could be hammered out in a half-day study session.
 
Verder-Aliga rambles on about vertical integration as though just parroting the term makes her knowledgeable.  A thirty second internet search will tell you that the new state regulations have been written to intentionally limit vertical integration in the industry, and which state licenses can be held simultaneously.  In general, licensees can only hold licenses in up to two separate categories.  For example, small cultivation licensee Types 1 -2 may hold manufacturing or Type 10A retail licenses (limited to three dispensaries).  It would take very little effort to find some of the basic information needed to even discuss the subject intelligently.  I guess we’re supposed to  rely on our institutional memory instead of doing any research.
 
The city attorney apparently wanted to be asked whether the current regime that declares dispensaries illegal in every zone but with limited immunity from prosecution would satisfy local authorization requirements for state licensing.  She maintains that it does, citing the state regulators promulgating the new rules.  We’ve heard exactly the opposite coming from the same source, and her version is certainly difficult to reconcile with the statutory
language.  Regardless, it is refreshing to hear that even among our current councilmembers, most now recognize that limited immunity doesn’t qualify as a rational regulatory framework.  
 
The mayor made it very clear that limited immunity is just a way to keep these businesses under the thumb of the city.  For some reason he and Mr. Keen seem to believe that legitimizing the existing dispensaries through the land use permitting process somehow means that you can’t control the number of permits issued.  Oakland doesn’t believe that, since they are permitting their dispensaries while adding a limited number each year until they arrive at what they consider an optimal distribution.  The idea that we need some bizarre limited immunity regime to enforce our codes for this one particular business is nonsense.  Los Angeles, where this goofy idea came from in the first place is in the process of replacing it.
 
The institutional memory in Vallejo is a major part of the problem, one best overcome by replacing those JumpStart councilmembers primarily responsible for the long series of missteps and false starts.  They only know how to screw it up.  Measure C was passed five years ago, and we’re still fumbling around trying to get this right.  It’s time to try a different approach once the next council is seated and questions about Proposition 64 are resolved.  Continuing down the same road with the same officeholders and expecting a different result truly is insanity.