City Council set to discuss cannabis cultivation, Affordable Care Act

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss medical cannabis ordinance revisions as well as items supporting Planned Parenthood and opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, among others.

Medical cannabis has significantly developed in Berkeley, fanning out to six official dispensaries. The new ordinances and amendments will set up a regulatory framework for medical cannabis cultivation businesses, as well as fine-tuning standards for the current marketplace.

The city has artificially restricted dispensaries and cultivation locations for several years, said District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

“People are cultivating illegally all over the place,” Worthington said. “Having a structure in place that brings it into an organized process is far preferable.”

According to Worthington, the taxation and regulation of cannabis dispensing is long overdue. California Proposition 64, which allows adults over the age of 21 to legally use marijuana recreationally, passed last November with 56 percent of the vote.

Also on the consent calendar is an item opposing the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. ACA has provided access to healthcare to several previously uninsured Americans, according to the agenda item. Additionally, the act clamped down on past healthcare system complaints — capping out-of-pocket expenses, banning discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, removing lifetime limits and allowing individuals to remain on their parent’s plan until the age of 26.

“The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of people who were uninsured, so I think the more legal and procedural roadblocks we can put in the way to eliminate it, the less harm will be done to the many people who have gotten insurance thanks to this new program,” Worthington said.

The consent item cites a December 2016 report released by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. The report concluded that a repeal of ACA would bring about an estimated economic loss of 209,000 jobs, a loss of $20.3 billion in the GDP and the loss of an additional $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue for California. The item recommends that City Council reaffirm its backing of ACA and urges federal officials to resist a rollback of the law.

If approved, a copy of the council’s resolution would be sent to President Donald Trump, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

Another agenda item affirms the city’s support for Planned Parenthood and the services it provides, including safe abortions.

“(These items) are certainly being put forward with the assumption that the council will agree and that we will be able to speak with one voice on these important topics that are being threatened by the new administration,” said District 5 Councilmember Sophie Hahn. “I will personally continue to put these types of items on and sponsor and co-sponsor them.”

Edward Booth covers city government. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.