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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Emeryville To Consider Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Oakland resident Sarah Hines is petitioning Emeryville's Public Safety Committee to consider permitting a medical marijuana dispensary in town.  Emeryville has a long-standing existing ordinance specifically against medical marijuana dispensaries, but Ms Hines believes the times have changed and public attitudes have softened as more is learned about the legitimate medical value of marijuana.  Emeryville may be ready to consider the benefits that such a dispensary would bestow, generous tax receipts not being the least of them.  The Committee has agreed to hear a presentation made by Ms Hines and her associates at their regularly scheduled February 2nd meeting at the Police Station.

Below is a letter to the Tattler by Ms Hines:
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Emeryville, like cities around the nation, is feeling the effects of the recession and has lost funds to the State.  Police and Fire services are struggling to keep up their high level of service.  Currently, the Fire Department is looking into new and unique partnerships to cut Fire Safety costs.  One of the largest line items in the Fire Department budget is for emergency service calls.  The Police Department budget is weighed down with Worker’s Compensation costs (right now more than 10 of their officers are out with various work related injuries).  I learned this by attending the Emeryville Safety Committee meetings over the last two years.

My daughters attend PRINTS [the Pacific Rim Montessori School] on Doyle Street in Emeryville, and rather than drive 15 minutes back to Oakland after drop off, I spend most days finding no or low cost things to do in Emeryville, the industrial city at the east end of the Bay Bridge (or EBMUD treatment plant, depending on your perspective).  As a Bay Area native, I’ve lived on three sides of this Bay and have watched this postage-stamp city develop into the powerhouse it is today.  Before Ikea opened, I wondered how the City would deal with the traffic, but Emeryville created the Emery-Go-Round and other solutions to manage the flow of people.  Being in Emeryville every day made me want to do more in Emeryville.

My chance came after the Supreme Court held that the State does not have to enforce criminal laws against sick people who use medical marijuana.  I put my legal training to work and drafted a nonprofit business model,  The Health Exchange Coop (THE Coop), a Medical Marijuana Dispensary that would donate 100% of its excess revenues to nonprofit health projects.

THE Coop would be a new private revenue stream for Emeryville that would, through its bylaws, fund existing and emerging public health needs in Emeryville.  THE Coop estimates that excess revenues would be $6 million within the first three years using a very conservative growth model.  In addition, Emeryville could anticipate that state and local taxes would be almost $1.5 million over the first three years of operation.  To give an example of what a thriving cooperative can achieve by being vertically integrated and safe, in 2010, Harborside Dispensary in Oakland grossed $21 million in sales.  If it had been sited in Emeryville, the City would have received a portion of the $1.8 million tax bill.

The funds raised would be controlled by a partnership of local stakeholders and THE Coop managing members, and would be spent only after focused inquiry into the areas of highest need.  My first suggestions to Emeryville would be a small Primary Care unit to offer health services to those Emeryville residents who may be using the highest percentage of public health care dollars.  This unit could be made up of a nurse practitioner, a social worker and an administrator who would provide whole health coverage to these patients in an effort to cut medical costs (similar pilot programs have been exceptionally successful at cutting costs while improving patient care and quality of life). 

To cut the Police Department budget, I believe that we should be viewing this department as a public version of a professional sports franchise.  Consider this, an Emeryville police officer – on an uneventful day – carries 20 pounds around his waist and sits for 10 hours in a squad car.  Then add physical confrontations with suspects or other typicalities of the job and it’s clear that police practice full contact sports every day.  As such, police officers could benefit from having a physical trainer or sports medicine provider on sight in their locker room to provide daily assessment of their physical well-being.  This would reduce injuries and worker’s compensation costs paid by the department.

What about liability (some might be shouting!)?  Emeryville needs to be careful with high risk businesses and doesn’t want to invite federal oversight.  Under THE Coop’s model, all liability is borne by the dispensary.  The City only invites trouble where it creates specialty laws to regulate medical marijuana, like a special dispensary license or a special medical marijuana sales tax.  The current law says that Emeryville, and any California city, can either ban dispensaries outright and forgo the tax revenue (and in our model forgo the direct investment in public health).  Or it can allow people to collectively grow marijuana.  At least that’s what a recent California court of appeals judge wrote.  He was relying upon a Federal Supreme Court decision that held a state does not have to enforce its criminal laws against sick people who cooperatively grow marijuana to aid in a number of medical conditions.

Most importantly, City officials could close any dispensary that presented a danger or nuisance to the community.  If Emeryville lifted its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and didn’t like how a dispensary was operating, the City could close it as easily as it closed Kitty’s Bar, formerly on Hollis Street (perhaps more easily because federal agencies could help).  And of course, the Council could always reinstate its ban on dispensaries through an immediate Special Council meeting.

Sarah Hines is a licensed attorney at law, spouse and mother of three, and Oakland resident.


  1. It's worth the risks. Many of us when ill would be grateful for the pain easing and function enhancing qualities of this plant. I realize this attorney has to make a pitch about the potential profits to the city, but the real issue is the availability to the public of a benign and relatively harmless plant that can help to reduce suffering.
    Joe Cohen

  2. Ms. Hines crusade is well thought out; from her perspective. However, I think it is misdirected, and should be referred back to her home Community, Oakland.
    Let them suffer the consequences of such an endeavor, in the "Hope" that it will bring the benefits. Emeryville has enough on its plate.

  3. It's noteworthy that the city council seems to poo-poo likely or even demonstrably provable negative consequences of favored developer's large scale development proposals all while talking up the tax receipts of said proposals. And yet a medical marijuana dispensary doesn't seem to get the same treatment from the council...actually so far, it's been just the opposite. It all sort of makes one question who they think they're working for.

  4. If this is a legit business, Ms. Hines, a perfect location for this enterprise would be to have this medical distibutor located next to the Pacific Rim School that your children attend. Of course this will not happen, you will be taking over the KFC on San Pablo Avenue just like they did on this South Park episode:

  5. Yet you have a liquor stores all over Emeryville.
    I love the double standard.

    Go compare fatality rates for marijuana versus alcohol, then tell me which you would rather have in your community?
    Heck, go look at domestic violence rates between the two drugs.

    I had a pinched nerve, the only thing that lessened my pain without a laundry list of nasty side effects was marijuana, and I tried all the prescription drugs, before long they had me on 5 drugs, 2 to manage the pain, and 3 to manage side effects of the other 2. Does that make any sense when ingesting a small amount of marijuana helped me without all the side effects? Yet people want to keep me from that medicine, boggles my mind. One of the most innocuous substances on the planet, but people have been brainwashed into thinking it's some horrible drug.

    My only suggestion is to do your own research, do your own web searches, talk to people you know, dont listen to the talking heads on TV, or read the bogus articles in the paper. There is a very strong movement against medical marijuana, and its focus is about money, not keeping people safe, or giving them relief.

    Whats even funnier, if I look around my house, I can find 50 substances that are far more dangerous to me than marijuana, that I bought at the store.

  6. Thanks for you post. I don't understand why the people and government don't want to know the positive use of marijuana. There are lots of marijuana news coming recently. They should consider the legalization of marijuana and dispensary.

  7. There are many positive effects use of marijuana. Marijuana uses as medical purpose. Marijuana helps to treats some diseases.