Oakland's Pot Plantations Crowd Home Growers
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Oakland, California is at the center of the debate over medical marijuana again. The city was the birthplace of last year's failed attempt to legalize pot for recreational use in this state. Now Oakland is pushing the limits, this time by clearing the way for enormous pot farms inside the city. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, the federal government and even some marijuana activists are saying not so fast.
RICHARD GONZALES: Tyyren Buxton, who grows cannabis for a local medical marijuana dispensary, unlocks a door to a small dark room revealing more than fifty young plants and a noisy dehumidifier.
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MONTAGNE: This is a room full of medical cannabis. Most of the room is Strawberry Cough. We also have a little bit of a strain called God's Gift right here in front. Each strain is good for different ailments. Some of them good for nausea, some of them are good for anti-anxiety. Some of them are good for pain relief.
GONZALES: Last July, the Oakland City Council approved an ordinance to license four indoor marijuana plantations with no limit on how large they could be. Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan co-authored that proposal. At a recent city hall hearing, she said those authorized growing operations would offset the shady side of medical marijuana in Oakland.
GONZALES: Currently growing is taking place illicitly in national parks, illicitly in facilities with bad wiring that catch fire. The purpose of having a permitting system is to have more control and have it be more safe.
GONZALES: William Panzer, an attorney who specializes in marijuana defense, co-authored Proposition 215, the initiative that legalized medical marijuana.
MONTAGNE: Clearly it's illegal under federal law. And there's nothing in state law that would allow for the first idea of let's just license giant commercial grows to sell to people or sell to clubs.
U: Good evening. Thank you for calling Harborside Health Center.
GONZALES: The Harborside Health Center is one of Oakland's four medical marijuana dispensaries. Its executive director, Steve DeAngelo, says he's all for buying cannabis from legal sources, but he worries that large, city-licensed marijuana farms will put small growers out of business.
MONTAGNE: I don't think that this was a request that came out of the patient community. And I still don't really understand why the council chose to move in such a dramatic direction all at once.
GONZALES: Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks told her council colleagues the city shouldn't give up on the idea of big, centralized growing operations.
GONZALES: If you believe that people who are sick have a right to cannabis, then would it not be better to have an environment where we know exactly where it comes from? That's what we're seeking to provide here in moving this ordinance forward.
GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.
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