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Oakland Passes Ambitious New Medical Marijuana Measure

Bill Weinberg

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On Wednesday, Oakland's City Council voted unanimously to approve a measure expanding the number of cannabis dispensaries and related businesses operating in the city. The new law seeks to bring the existing black market under the city's regulatory regime, covering everything from grow operations to retail sales.

It will allow adding up to eight new dispensary permits each year, and foresees up to 30 new cultivators, 12 delivery businesses, five distributors, five transporters, two testing facilities and 28 manufacturing businesses.

The expansion could bring relief to the strapped city coffers. Last year, the eight dispensaries already operating in the city generated roughly $4 million in taxes, according to Greg Minor, an assistant to the city administrator, speaking to the East Bay Times.

But there was some controversy around what Councilmamber Desley Brooks called her "Equity Amendment" to the measure, requiring half the new business licenses to be issued within six areas that have higher marijuana arrest rates—all in heavily African American East Oakland. Brooks posed the amendment as a step toward racial justice, telling NBC Bay Area: "When you look at cannabis industry across nation, it's dominated by people who are white, and they make money. And the people who go to jail are black and brown. I wanted some parity. There needs to be equity in this industry."

Some criticized the mandate that applicants live in the designated neighborhoods as an obstacle that could deter some of those it is intended to help.

"While I agree with the overall objective, it is lacking in its intent to create true equity in ownership by those affected by the War on Drugs," testified Andrea Unsworth, owner of the delivery service StashTwist, told the East Bay Times. "Where are the owners, operators and founders of color? And why are you creating additional barriers for them to enter?"

(Photo Courtesy of NextShark.com)

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