City commission meets to discuss tax regulation on medical cannabis

Representatives of Berkeley’s newly-reconstituted Medical Cannabis Commission met for the second time Thursday to discuss their ongoing efforts to develop recommendations that will develop tax regulation on medical cannabis in the city.

At Thursday’s meeting, the commission successfully established two four-member subcommittees — one for dispensaries and one for cultivation — with the purpose of coming up with permitting process recommendations. Although the committee did not decide when the subcommittees would begin meeting, members of the commission were confident that their creation would help facilitate the process of devising a tax regulation and permitting system for the city.

Last November, Berkeley voters passed Measures S and T, which levied a tax of 2.5 percent on for-profit facilities and led to the reconstitution of the commission by allowing the city to permit six new 30,000-square-foot cultivation sites to open in West Berkeley, as well as a fourth dispensary.

Since only the City Council can enact law, the function of the commission is to develop a comprehensive report with suggestions for how to regulate distribution and taxation of medical marijuana within the city.

“I feel really confident that we’re going to move forward quickly,” said commission chair Dan Rush at the meeting.

The commission is made up of nine members, each appointed by a member of the council. According to the commission’s bylaws, “at least one commissioner must be a member of a medical cannabis dispensary, one shall be a member of a collective that is not a dispensary, and one shall be a cultivator who is not primarily associated with a single dispensary and provides medical cannabis to more than one dispensary.”

“We’ve got some national icons on the commission,” Rush said. “Everyone here wants to establish this industry in Berkeley.”

At the meeting, Rush and Toya Groves, vice chair of the committee, reported that they had met with members of the Berkeley Police Department to discuss medical cannabis. Rush stressed the committee’s desire to do everything possible to make sure cannabis is only accessible to those with a legitimate medical need.

In a BPD report compiling marijuana enforcement activity from Jan. 1 through June 30 this year, there were no cases of minors being charged with possession of marijuana on school grounds. Still, Groves suggested the possibility of meeting with Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education members to discuss issues related to medical marijuana education.

According to Rush, new laws approaching the state legislature in the coming months will greatly affect the issues that the board is dealing with. AB 1300, authored by state Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, will establish specific definitions of the terms “cooperative” and “collective”, while SB 847, authored by state Senator Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, will restrict the proximity between medical cannabis providers and schools.

“We have a lot of different opinions. It’s a diverse commission with community-based and business-based representatives,” Rush said.

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