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Council Candidates on Medical Marijuana

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

What plans would the candidates pursue regarding a marijuana dispensary in Albany? What would the candidates do in the event that permitting and regulating of dispensaries could be done by cities? Are the candidates proactive in matters of community health? 

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

We currently do not allow marijuana dispensaries in Albany. I would likely not seek to take action to allow them before I could do more research, even though I do support medical marijuana. If Albany were able to consider a dispensary, I would research current dispensaries in small cities such as ours (if any exist) to evaluate their impact there. I'm uncertain as to the meaning of the last question, but I promote health through Albany Strollers & Rollers, which encourages walking and biking for the health benefits it brings, among many other reasons.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

The application for a dispensary on Solano Avenue was a test of Albany’s code governing marijuana dispensaries. I personally supported that application because I got to know the brothers making the application (disclosure: my company built their website) and came to respect their clinical take on a dispensary — I felt that if Albany was going to follow its plans for a dispensary in the city, this was the kind of facility that would best fit the city. I was always skeptical of the location for the dispensary and was not surprised by neighbor resistance and denial of the application. 

But we’re in an awkward position — we voted to allow a dispensary in the city, but the only location that qualifies is close to an existing dispensary in Richmond and inconveniently distant for some in their greatest need. So we need to consider why the voters agreed that a dispensary was needed. If it was out of compassion for those who need a dispensary, we should revise our ordinance to allow a centrally located facility (identifying specific locations where facilities would be acceptable). If it was for some other reason we could revise our ordinance to specify Cleveland avenue.

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

I currently have no plans regarding a marijuana dispensary in Albany. It’s my recollection that on the advice of the City Attorney, the Council removed the law permitting a dispensary a couple of years ago. I take a mostly libertarian view of marijuana. Government wastes a lot of time and money using police and prisons to deal with the problems around pot when most of these issues could be better handled by the Public Health sector. As to medical dispensaries, the issue seems to parallel the cell tower issue. Most people recognize the needs (marijuana access for patients or better phone coverage) but few are excited about having either a cell tower or dispensary anywhere close to where they live.

Probably my most proactive work for community health is in the realm of coaching my daughter’s Soccer team. On a wider, international level, I have volunteered at many fund raising events for the SEVA foundation.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

I am not pursuing any plans regarding a marijuana dispensary in Albany.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

The citizens of Albany voted in 2006, Measure D, to establish a single medical marijuana dispensary in the City of Albany, subject to regulations of City Council. I strongly support this measure. Last year, Albany City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit such dispensaries, in response to a court case, Pack v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, which prohibited cities from regulating marijuana sales. This case was dismissed in the California Supreme Court in August of this year.  Albany's Ordinance specifies that the City will follow new legal developments as they unfold. Therefore, as a member of City Council I will revisit this issue and reassess the situation. I support the majority of Albany voters who would like to establish a medical marijuana dispensary here that is regulated by City Council. Personally, I am committed to natural and holistic health and I am pro-active in the community. I have been a yoga teacher for about 20 years, teaching adults and children of all ages. I have been active in the organic foods movement for just as long. For more information about me visit my website: http://spellwomanforalbany.org.

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

I am a strong advocate for medical marijuana. 

I became a medical marijuana patient because I believe our government should provide compassionate care to those in need. I wanted to learn what a patient had to go through. To put it bluntly, I am disgusted by Albany politics as it relates to this issue. The Albany voters have spoken numerous times asking City Council to approve a dispensary. I have spoken at countless meetings in support of compassionate care. 

Recently, against the will of Albany voters, City Council rescinded our ordinance allowing a medical marijuana dispensary within Albany. I will work to create an environment where a medical marijuana dispensary can thrive within Albany city limits. [READ MORE]

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

This issue needs to stay on the back burner. Albany may have voted for a dispensary in the abstract, but when it came time to actually put it somewhere, no one wanted anywhere near their back yard, much less near local parks and schools.

I have had friends who were undergoing chemotherapy who found the drug useful, I don’t dispute that. But I think Albany residents can find dispensaries nearby in other towns. 

Given the federal government’s erratic but growing hostility to dispensaries, I don’t think it’s a good idea to take up this issue again unless the regulatory environment becomes less murky.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

wow Alabany October 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Sure. Let's legalize pot, and along with it other popular drugs of choice by teenagers and young adults, like meth and its many relatives. Great idea.
FlyingTooLow October 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM
If marijuana were treated like lettuce and tomatoes, this would end. After all, it is plant. Take the government out of the equation. It does not belong. I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. I wrote about the great times I had before my arrest...living free, bringing in the weed, and harming no one. My book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank I would be honored by your review.
Senior A. Titude October 10, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I'm not sure a dispensary would make any difference in the number of Albany students lighting up by the El Cerrito Plaza creek when I walk my dog ;-) Kids are hooked up today through technology, so they can get it from Berkeley or Oakland or El Cerrito students.
Ellen Hershey October 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Jurors do take an oath affirming that they will render their decisions based on the judge's instructions and the law. A prospective juror who does not intend to follow the law should disclose that during the jury selection process.
Tatter Salad October 10, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Barnes, Thompsen and Pilch have the correct stance in my view. The 'medical' aspect has become a sham, but that's not the issue. I went to 'WeedFinder' dot com and found there to be at least 4 outlets in Berkeley, and 2 in Richmond- I think our citizens are well served at this point. The Albany City Council has a record of failing to follow the 'majority' of Albany citizens' wishes however, but I believe Michael Barnes stated the facts of the matter succinctly. This is in contrast to the consensus vote to allow expanded gaming at the Race Track many years ago, and the Council demurred at following the majority vote supporting that expansion. [Now they ask for 'more taxes,' and we must live with their failure to follow our wishes,they should have allowed the expansion of the gaming potential at GG Fields, IMHO. ].
Doctor Detroit October 10, 2012 at 03:59 PM
As much as I wouldn't want a pot club within a certain distance from residential housing "…Think Jacuzzi Street...", to compare it to Meth is totally unfair. Sure pot-heads are at times clumsy and slow, but at least they do not resort to outrageous criminal behavior like those on Meth. "Tina" is pure evil.
Robert Smith October 10, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Our tiny town does not have any fresh local vegetables for sale. We don't need one of everything in this town, but I would spend at least $100 a month on fruits and veggies alone if we had a real version of Happy Produce. I'd prefer that to a pot dispensary.
Warren October 10, 2012 at 04:17 PM
There is no longer any doubt in the research medical community and the therapeutic community of which i am a member that early use of MJ affects emotional and cognitive development . When we as a community support a dispensary we are complicit in aiding our kids to have easier access to weed. Also weed is not meth...but know that there is plenty of meth here in Albany. And I think adults who sell weed to teens should do prison time.
Ross Stapleton-Gray October 10, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Then open a grocery. We've actually got a variety of sources nearby (and in a town a mile across, just across the border is fine) including folks who'll drop off a box of kale, squash, etc. on your porch every week. But this goes in the "unicorns" category... we don't get to decide what it is we'll get, unless someone's willing to do the work of creating it; we can effectively veto things (cf. pot dispensary and Whole Foods), but that's never going to create things.
Jack Osborne October 10, 2012 at 04:49 PM
What a great comment, Robert! I completely agree - more residents of Albany would benefit from a fresh produce market than a marijuana dispensary. And per another posting, those in need of medicinal marijuana have plenty of options nearby.
Doctor Detroit October 10, 2012 at 05:36 PM
You have a new super safeway opened up on Shattuck, a Safeway on Solano, Ranch 99 (The Real Happy Produce Killer), Lucky's, Trader Joes, Two Farmers Markets, and sometimes the guy selling watermelons on San Pablo. Competition is brutal, and everything you don't sell goes to waste (i.e. money down the drain) OH YES, don't forget the yelpers who will take a stab/scrutinize every little mistake or misgiving you might have. Its always easy to say "I'd support it if it were there and was run right", but right now Safeway supports ATM without a transaction fee and you don't have cash in your pocket at the moment. The small mom & pop market seriously doesn't stand a chance in this market.
Caryl O'Keefe October 10, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Tatter, I think you and probably many others are unaware of the end of the saga of the plan to add a large cardroom/ gaming facility at the racetrack. 51.5% of the voters approved the plan in a Measure C proposal placed by Council on the ballot in 1994. But in 1995 the City was sued, then lost on appeal (procedural grounds) in 1997. Appeal decision: http://ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/cases/1997/citsresp.html. It would be very interesting to estimate what the impact on City revenues would have been then (and now) had the cardroom facility been implemented per the majority of voters' wishes (along with Bay Trail, racetrack remaining, etc), even the Sierra Club was onboard with the plan.
Jim Beller October 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Why do we bother voting when governing Albany is going to be done by consensus? Also note the futility of using Patch comments to gauge public sentiment, especially if cross-checked against secret ballot results.
Robert Smith October 10, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Ross, I'll open a grocery. Thanks for the advice! Oh wait...I'm posting comments to a local comment board, not asking for you to say that my comment is dumb. My real unicorn dream is that you wouldn't keep using that comment over and over; especially when the topic of the 'article' is "What would you like to see in this vacant storefront?". Don't like dreaming much? Doctor D: None of those places you mention have fresh, cheap produce. I know, I really just want a closer, better Monterey Market. Please refer to Ross about my waking dream state. BTW I used to frequent by a small yet wonderful produce and liquor store on Clement that is still thriving. Happy Produce was a bad store.
Ross Stapleton-Gray October 10, 2012 at 10:04 PM
"...especially when the topic of the 'article' is 'What would you like to see in this vacant storefront?'" I don't think I've ever "harshed anyone's mellow" in such an article, where yes, one is invited to suggest opportunities/wishes, e.g., mini-golf on Solano. And most often use it when people's wishing becomes idyllic-crazy, e.g., "I'd rather see that thing I don't like that's been years in planning somewhere else move into the Petsmart site where I won't see it, and a unicorn mani-pedi place could then share space with a free sundae bar." This particular topic was all about the pot dispensary, not groceries or unicorn haberdasheries. Personally, I'd like to see pot possession & use legalized (though I wouldn't use it personally, I don't think, and smoking anything is a cancer risk); I'm not going to vote to have Albany serve as a test case in confronting unfortunate federal law that we can otherwise work to amend.
AHS graduate October 11, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Teens will always be able to access to weed, especially living in the Bay Area where weed is such a part of the surrounding culture. If I were a parent I would definitely prefer my child to smoke weed over drinking alcohol, which leads people to do much more outrageous and dangerous things including driving drunk. Weed can spur creativity and abstract thinking for the adolescent mind (known from personal experience!). Weed is everywhere, and most Americans and Canadians have tried it because it has legitimate medical use for stress, sleeping disorders, and lots more. A dispensary should have the same right to start up as any other small business starting up, and even if there isn't a dispensary teens will still have access to weed (it's the truth, you can't deny it).
Warren October 12, 2012 at 04:07 AM
As VP Biden said "malarkey". Even NORML the most pro MJ organization acknowledges that MJ use for teens is dangerous and detrimental to their development. Yes it will always be available but passive acceptance on the part of adults is read as acceptance by teens. Please don't continue to spread falsehoods based on your individual experience.
Make It Right October 12, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Tod Abbott really provided full service representation as the Chamber of Commerce President. Up to and including endorsing a pot dispensary for our major business intersection. Welcome to Albany. At least he made some money off the deal since he helped out the prospective pot merchants by building their website! I'd call that keeping the purchasing local. Wait until he's on the Council. He can make money building the web sites for everyone needing his support to open their new businesses. Sweet
Tod Abbott October 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Hey, this is kind of cute. I must be doing something right if I'm eliciting accusations of corruption from anonyms. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify the issue. My position regarding dispensaries starts with the assumption that the people of Albany meant it when they voted to accept a dispensary in the City. Given that fact, the question becomes one of how (and importantly, where) it should happen. The clause that I removed from the end of my statement above (because we were limited to 200 words), was "...or we could revisit our decision and decide not to allow a dispensary in the city after all." As far as me somehow leveraging my role on the Chamber for business purposes, you have no idea how absurd that is. My commitment of time to the Chamber has hurt my business far more than it has helped. When I joined the Board of the Chamber I figured that putting energy into the community would benefit my business. I quickly realized that was naive, so my involvement is only because I enjoy helping people. Just ask David Daniels, the owner of T324, the most prominent Web company in the city. He strongly supports my candidacy. And for the record, my wife (who has a different last name) was approached by VitalGen for the website before they knew about the Chamber of Commerce. They wanted a local company to work with to support the community they were going into. It wasn't until our first client meeting that they met me and they learned about the Chamber of Commerce.
Make It Right October 13, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Hey you need to point out that you have worked for the notorious MJ grow house vendor in Berkeley (Berkeley's Secret Garden), consulting on marketing and building them a website. They talk about indoor gardening but no one raises anything with the kind of equipment they sell but commercial MJ growers. You feature that job on your company website. How many MJ related websites have you built? And let's get this straight we may have ill advisedly OK'd issuing a permit for a marijuana "dispensary" but the location that the ordinance authorized was over by the freeway in about as out of the way area as you could come up with in Albany. You instead decide to advocate that we should do this up right and put the marijuana outlet up at the busiest intersection in Albany (Solano and San Pablo). Hard to view that move as improving Albany's business climate.
Tod Abbott October 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Now, to my client list. I'm proud of our client list. I've built websites for all kinds of businesses (mostly very small businesses, but a few much larger organizations). Why don't we talk about the work for the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, or the Berkeley Food and Housing Project? Or how about the SF Bay Chapter of NARI (for remodeling contractors), or the sites for lawyers and real estate agents for that matter? The variety of my clients is one of the reasons to support my candidacy. I've worked with all kinds of small businesses, learning what is important to their operations and helping them market what they do. It seems to me that that sort of experience is something that has been markedly absent on the Council for some time, and the city is paying the price for it. With my time with the Chamber, my business networking, and my work itself, none of the other candidates on the ballot can even come close to my experience in working with small businesses. Finally, to answer your question directly, I don't think we have done sites for any other "MJ" related businesses, though I do think we talked to a lawyer once who was thinking of starting a business in that line.
Tod Abbott October 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I'm pleased to see that in your ire you have dropped the accusation of corruption. That's good, because that really was ridiculous. However, if you are now trying to paint me as a pot user, you are again barking up the very wrong tree. I admit that I smoked pot once back in my college years. It didn't do a lot for me. I am not a pot (or other drug) user. But I'm also not judgmental. About your mischaracterization of the dispensary ordinance, I am going to assume you aren't being intentionally misleading. At the time the ordinance was approved, it was done so partly on the basis of a map sketched up by city staff. It drew circles around the parks, schools, etc. in order to demonstrate where a dispensary could go under the ordinance. This map was provided to those considering opening a dispensary in the city. The location VitalGen proposed was OK according to the map. Turns out, however, the map really was only a sketch and that if other youth-oriented facilities were considered and more careful measurements done, most of those locations were prohibited after all. My reasons for supporting the VitalGen proposal are exactly as described in my original statement. Assuming we were going to have a dispensary, I thought that their take on it would best fit Albany. In the midst of the controversy, I did ask them why they didn't just change locations, but the process wasn't set up for that and it wasn't really an option.
Steven Steve October 16, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Seems there are 3 camps here. 1) Ignore Albany voters (Peggy Thomsen, Nick Pilch, and Michael Barnes), 2) Acknowledge Albany voters, but remain mired with no progress (Tod Abbott, and Peter Maas), and 3) Acknowledge Albany voters and do as they have requested (Sheri Spellwoman and Ulan McKnight). For the purposes of this evaluation, I will combine groups 1 & 2 for the simple reason that when I cast a vote (as I believe most of us do) I expect it to be BOTH acknowledged AND followed. The idea that 'candidates' in these groups have yet to do research, or are simply going to ignore the empirical evidence that such a facility is both a benefit to the community as a whole and a benefit to the neighborhood surrounding the dispensary is in, has been in, and has remained constant for some ten years now. Such willing ignorance smacks of either incompetency or an ulterior motive/agenda or both. Further, for some 'candidates' the vote requires further 'interpretation' of what the voters intended. Again, we were clear and that was SEVEN years ago we voted for this! I, myself, will vote for a leader...and not a politician who walks the pandering tight rope.
Karl October 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I wonder what it would take for Albany to be a model for the nation on representing the people through an online system where citizens sign up for polling, addresses verified, and the city could get real time opinions for much less cost than hiring consultants. Direct polling/voting on issues is do-able. On a national level, it won't happen because it would hurt the power of special interest lobbying, but I'd like to hear from the candidates if they think it's a good idea and what it might cost to implement and maintain. At least 2 of you have strong computer skills.
FlyingTooLow October 16, 2012 at 06:40 PM
This is exactly what needs to be done nationwide. Put our laws to a popular vote. The marijuana debacle could be settled NOW. Anytime the bureaucracies become involved, everything winds up in a pissing contest.
Dover October 16, 2012 at 06:43 PM
That's an excellent idea, Karl. No need to worry about the elderly and others who do not use computers or the poor who are in need of internet access as well as the free vegetables passed out by the gracious members of OTF. Why should their opinions count if they can't be bothered to keep up with technology?
Karl October 16, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Dover, I don't know why you are the way you are, but I have loving thoughts for your healing. Great points about seniors and the poor. I'm glad that you are looking out for them and hope that you are sincere and not just using those groups for this argument only. 1/2 of seniors in the US do not have internet access, I suspect it's far less in Albany. The library is a place where a person can get free internet time. This is an idea. Details would need to be worked out so nobody who wants to participate would be left out.
Dover October 16, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Thank you for your loving thoughts, Karl, those are always greatly appreciated, but I have no need to be "healed" from a grasp on reality and a deep affection for good old common sense. ; - }
Dover October 16, 2012 at 07:35 PM
P.S. Not all seniors are physically capable of making their way to the library. I know this from the volunteer work I do through the Senior Center. We all look forward to seeing you there, someday!
Steven Steve October 19, 2012 at 03:58 PM
@Dover - So, since some seniors can't physically make it to the library another methods should be found. BUT, if some medical marijuana patients can't make it to surrounding areas with dispensaries...to heck with them? I smell another DD (Dover Double standard) :)

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