Oakland Could Go To Pot in a Big Way 
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Oakland Could Go To Pot in a Big Way 
Posted by CN Staff on July 20, 2010 at 04:56:19 PT
By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times
Source: Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Oakland -- Oakland could approve a plan Tuesday to set up four marijuana factory farms, a step that could usher in the era of Big Pot.The proposal is a testament to just how fast the marijuana counterculture is transforming into a corporate culture. And it has ignited a contentious debate in Oakland that could spread as cities face pressure to regulate marijuana cultivation and find ways to tax it.
"Everybody knows it's going bigger and big money is moving in," said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and prominent marijuana activist. As the state edges toward legalization, he said, more businessmen will seek to capitalize on a fast-growing market in a recession-hindered economy, forcing cities to make difficult choices on how to exert control.If the City Council approves the plan, one Bay Area businessman has already made it clear that he intends to apply for a cultivation permit. Jeff Wilcox, who owned a successful construction firm and has already incorporated as AgraMed, hopes to convert his empty industrial buildings near Interstate 880 into an enormous production facility. He plans to manufacture growing equipment, bake marijuana edibles in a 10,000-square-foot kitchen and use two football fields of space to grow about 58 pounds of marijuana every day, many times the amount now sold in Oakland.What caught the City Council's attention was Wilcox's projection that he could hire 371 employees and pay at least $1.5 million a year in taxes. Oakland faces severe budget deficits and has already let go of 80 police officers.Last week, a council committee sent to the full council the proposal to allow four large cultivation operations, worried that a delay might allow other cities to get the jump on Oakland. "I do want to encourage a few large growers because I think that's where the industry's going, and I don't think you're going to be able to hold that back," Councilwoman Jean Quan said.But it has ignited intense opposition from medical marijuana activists, dispensary operators and growers in Oakland, who complain that the plan fails to include the growers who have risked federal prosecution for years to supply the city's four dispensaries. Normally secretive, they have started to speak out."It's not providing a pathway for folks to become more legitimate," said Dan Grace, an owner of Dark Heart Nursery, which raises about 10,000 pot clones a month in a 3,000-square-foot space. Grace said that his operation could triple its size — if Oakland allowed it.Oakland takes pride in setting new marijuana precedents. It was the first city to regulate dispensaries, make marijuana crimes the lowest police priority and enact a special tax on marijuana. And Richard Lee, who operates one of its dispensaries, put the marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot.Even if Oakland approves the plan, it faces a serious obstacle: the feds. The Obama administration's policy is to leave medical marijuana operations alone if they are in "clear and unambiguous compliance with state law." In a memo, one council member wrote "this proposal is not legal under state law according to our city attorney." City Atty. John Russo's office declined to release his memo, citing attorney-client privilege.Drug Enforcement Administration agents remain on the hunt for major growers. This month, agents raided a collective in Mendocino that was complying with the county's new cultivation ordinance, ripping out all 99 of its plants. The San Francisco DEA office referred questions on the Oakland proposal to the drug czar's office, which called it "the latest example of ongoing efforts to legitimize, through local ordinances, activities that remain illegal under federal law."Said James Anthony, an Oakland lawyer who thinks the proposal should accommodate smaller growers: "There are no giant cannabis factories anywhere in the world, and it strikes me as a rather odd assumption that the first one is going to come into existence in the United States of America. I don't know. Maybe."Oakland's proposal, drafted by council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid, would still allow small unregulated cultivation in homes but is intended to supplant hundreds of larger operations, establishing the four industrial operations "as the only legal model."They argue that medium-size operations, often in gutted homes and illicit warehouses, are a hazard, causing electrical fires and drawing violent crime.Many cities and counties are grappling with this issue.Some, such as Redding and Tehama County, have placed strict limits on marijuana growing. . Long Beach has required its dispensaries to grow all of their marijuana on site. In Los Angeles, the City Council did not explicitly require collectives to grow on site, but the city attorney's office says that state law requires it.And Berkeley, like neighboring Oakland, decided earlier this month to ask voters in November to approve six marijuana production operations of up to 30,000 square feet each.Under Oakland's proposal, the four operations would pay an annual fee of $211,000, which would support a city staff to ensure they are operated safely and securely. But opponents see it as a steep barrier to entry and have proposed a sliding scale based on size."The ordinance basically sets up an oligopoly," said Gieringer, the longtime head of California NORML, which advocates for legalization. "I don't think we want just four humongous growers, not just Wal-Marts. We'd like to see lots of microbreweries, rather than Budweisers."Steve DeAngelo runs Harborside on the Oakland waterfront, the largest legal marijuana retailer in the world. From his bright, airy dispensary, he and his 80 employees serve more than 600 patients a day, selling about 8 pounds of marijuana in about 100 varieties. He has nurtured a network of more than 400 patient-farmers, as he calls them. Fearing for their livelihoods, he has stirred up much of the opposition. "Any new system that is created needs to have a role for these pioneers," he said. "It's not the role of government to decide the winners and losers in the marketplace."Standing next to about 60 thriving, 5-foot-tall plants sprouting from 30-gallon buckets, David Fry, a longtime Oakland grower, said he has little sympathy for these growers. "Why do it? It's not legal," he said. His operation, he said, is a by-the-book collective with members who share the work and the costs.Scores of applicants are expected for the four permits, which would not be issued until January, but two businessmen who have been public about their dreams have galvanized opponents, who resent their wealth and recent arrival on the scene.Wilcox declined to discuss his proposal until after Tuesday, when the council could vote. But when he spoke last week at the committee hearing, he appeared sensitive to the criticism. "I do not want and never want to monopolize this industry," he said. "I think we should open up some of these facilities for safe sanctuaries for the small- and medium-sized growers."Dhar Mann made a lot of money brokering mortgages and escaped before the implosion. In January, he opened iGrow, a 15,000-foot hydroponics superstore , pitching it as the first to cater openly to medical marijuana growers. He also founded the University of Cannabis to teach cultivation classes. And he continues to envision new ventures at a rapid clip. "I really saw the pot industry as one with future growth," he said.Mann said he has assembled a team to design an energy-efficient proposal for a large cultivation facility that would stack pallets of pot plants as high as five levels.. "This is the natural next step," he said. "If it is not Oakland, it's going to be some other city that's going to do it."Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author:   John Hoeffel, Los Angeles TimesPublished: July 20, 2010 Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by dongenero on July 21, 2010 at 11:42:29 PT
comment #5 Fox News
There is some comical blathering by conservative prohibitionists and culture warriors in the comment forum of that Fox article.
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Comment #5 posted by konagold on July 21, 2010 at 03:04:43 PT
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Comment #4 posted by John Tyler on July 20, 2010 at 18:48:00 PT
money talks
Money talks and it is now saying loudly, “Relegalize cannabis”. It may not suite everyone in every way, but it will be a good thing overall. The goal of legal cannabis will have been achieved. 
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Comment #3 posted by Paul Armentano on July 20, 2010 at 15:32:51 PT
LA Times: Feinstein rebuttal,0,5546540.storyBlowbackFeinstein's misguided opposition to marijuana legalizationProhibition has failed, yet her arguments against Proposition 19 suggest the U.S. senator is comfortable with the unacceptable status quo.By Paul Armentano1:34 PM PDT, July 20, 2010Democrat Dianne Feinstein, California's senior U.S. senator, has thrown her weight behind the effort to defeat Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010. Apparently Feinstein believes that California's present pot prohibition, which was initially enacted in 1913 yet has done nothing to reduce the plant's availability or use, is worth keeping.Much of the public disagrees; that is why the voters this November will decide on an alternative. Proposition 19 would allow adults 21 years and older to privately possess and cultivate small quantities of marijuana for personal use. (Consuming marijuana in public would remain subject to punishment.) It would also permit local governments to regulate the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis for adults.Proposition 19's proponents maintain that the enactment of sensible regulations and age restrictions regarding marijuana's production, distribution and consumption will limit youth access to pot and better protect public safety. Feinstein disagrees, calling the measure "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."Let's assess her argument point by point. First, Proposition 19 explicitly states that it will not amend or undermine existing state law criminalizing motorists who operate a vehicle while impaired by pot. Driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal in California, and violators are vigorously prosecuted. This fact will not change under the initiative.Second, Proposition 19 in no way undermines federal drug-free workplace rules, just as the state's 14-year experience with legalized medical marijuana has not done so. Further, it does not limit the ability of employers to sanction or fire employees who show up to work under the influence of pot. Just as a private or public employer today may dismiss workers for being impaired by legal alcohol, employers in the future will continue to be able to fire employees who arrive to work under the influence of marijuana.Third, Proposition 19 seeks to enhance the safety of California's communities by removing the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana from criminal entrepreneurs and moving it into the hands of licensed, regulated business people.Proposition 19 would also allow local governments to reallocate law enforcement resources toward more serious crimes. Presently in California, more than 60,000 people annually are arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses. Proposition 19 would eliminate many of these needless arrests. The measure's approval would unburden the courts, save millions in taxpayer dollars and allow police to spend their time targeting more serious criminal activity.Marijuana is not a harmless substance, but this fact is precisely why its commercial distribution ought to be legal and regulated in a manner similar to the licensed distribution of alcohol and cigarettes, two legal substances that cause far greater harm to the individual user and to society as a whole than cannabis ever could. Society doesn't tax and regulate alcohol because it's innocuous; it does so because we recognize that it temporarily alters mood and behavior and thus should be regulated accordingly. There's no reason why this same principle ought not to apply to cannabis.It is time to bring long-overdue oversight to a market that is presently unregulated, untaxed, uncontrolled and monopolized by criminal entrepreneurs. It is time to replace nearly 100 years of failed marijuana prohibition with a policy of sensible cannabis regulation.Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is the coauthor of the book, "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?" (Chelsea Green, 2009).Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times,0,554654
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Comment #2 posted by observer on July 20, 2010 at 13:35:29 PT
The Government Ganja of Oakland
Oakland could approve a plan Tuesday to set up four marijuana factory farms, a step that could usher in the era of Big Pot.Whoa... Big step! Hopefully they will provide a way for the smaller growers, our friends (with whom we have gotten high with a little help from). Like you can brew your own beer at home, or make your own wine. Or like there are microbreweries. Hey, I am a Libertarian but I like the taste of "The State Beer of China" (and that term always cracks me up), so sometimes they can get it right.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on July 20, 2010 at 09:58:01 PT
usual america kicking in
Crush the middle class! That is the goal. Many reasons, but the benefit for the political class is clear.Much easier to collect bribes from 4 guys than 200. And the bribes will be a lot bigger too. And then there's the inevitable unions which have the biggest kickbacks of all!And the new city employees will all have to kick back to the mayor. Watch Sean Penn's Huey Long movie for a tutorial on how our system works ("All the King's Men")This is a perfect instance of where NO regulation is best. Let the customers decide who has the best product and price, not the morally bankrupt political class. We should be able to choose from huge industrial medicine or micro-medicine.  Do we want beer-drinkers to have more choice than the sick and dying people in our society?
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