With marijuana advocates pushing for Palo Alto to allow pot dispensaries, city officials took a firm stance Monday night against a ballot measure that would legalize and tax up to three such shops.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday night, Sept. 10, to support a colleagues' memo that urges voters to oppose Measure C, which would allow up to three marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city. The measure sets hour and location restrictions on the pot shops and imposes a 4 percent tax on the dispensaries' revenues.
The memo, authored by Mayor Yiaway Yeh, Vice Mayor Greg Scharff and Councilman Larry Klein, cites the various pending court cases challenging the legality of the dispensaries and argues that the shops, if legalized, "can lead to 'secondary effects' in our neighborhoods, such as illicit drug sales, loitering and even criminal activity."
While advocates of the measure framed their initiative as a humane effort to bring relief to terminally ill patients, the council trio wrote that treating marijuana as "medicine" "sends an unwarranted message to young people and others that consuming marijuana is a benign activity or even beneficial to health."
Yeh said Monday that he opposes Measure C because there is currently no way to efficiently determine, without blood tests or other intrusive methods, whether someone had been smoking pot while driving.
"The risk to the public as a result of uncertain and inefficient enforcement and testing mechanism really creates a context where I'm not able to support medical-marijuana dispensaries here in Palo Alto," Yeh said.
Klein rejected the notion that marijuana is only smoked by terminally ill patients and pointed to an email from a Palo Alto High School parent whose son reportedly bought marijuana from an adult who picked it up at a dispensary.
"This is not a benign thing or one that just affects people who have pain problems," Klein said. "This is really a subterfuge that we do not want in Palo Alto."
Not everyone shared the trio's depiction of marijuana as a harbinger of greater problems. Councilman Pat Burt said he was skeptical about the notion of pot leading to harder drugs. But he joined his colleagues in opposing Measure C, saying that Proposition 15, which created the state law permitting dispensaries, has been abused since its inception in 1996.
"I think there are ample studies over long periods of time that dispute the notion that marijuana necessarily leads to harder drug use and some of those other things," Burt said.
Councilwoman Gail Price agreed with Burt but, like Burt, she voted to support the colleagues' memo.