Oakland’s Ambitious Pot Farm Plan Wilts Under Scrutiny

The Oakland City Council voted in closed session Tuesday, December 21 to suspend their controversial “request for permit applications” process to indoor farm large amounts of medical marijuana, citing possible violations of state law.

The motion from Councilwoman Kaplan, seconded by Councilwoman Brooks directs the city administrator to suspend the RFPA application process, inform the applicants, amend the RFPA, reissue it and reopen it for new as well as old applicants. The interim dispensary RFPA that would take the number of dispensaries from four to eight in the city has also been suspended.

Bottom line: Oakland won’t be getting any tax money from permitting pot grows any time soon. And the plans of more than 250 applicants – many of whom planned on dropping millions of dollars on pricey farms – have been thrown into limbo while they await changes to the RFPA. Council is expected to vote on changes no sooner than February 1, 2011. That totally explodes Oakland’s ambitious timeline to implement the farms, and in a way signals a victory for critics of the plan. Meanwhile city-permitted and taxed pot farming moves forward in Berkeley, Sebastopol, and Eureka.

For months, lawyers have said Oakland’s plan to permit and tax farms would wade into murky state law over what is a collective and how it can operate and be taxed. Oakland’s city attorney has not backed the farm ordinance. Unnamed federal officials told California Watch Oakland would be violating federal law and possibly state law. This week, the Alameda County D.A. cautiously implied Oakland might be acting illegally and she might have to prosecute them.

RFPA staffer Arturo Sanchez said the city was looking at possibly bundling the new dispensary and farm permits into one permit, which could allow for a legal safe harbor. But that’s a contentious issue on the council.


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