City backs local control aspect of regulatory bill

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Hayward have long been viewed by city leaders with great disdain. Hayward councilmembers, in the past, have labeled them the bane of public safety and a potential corruption of young minds in Hayward.

Like several other East Bay cities around 2010, Hayward issued a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries within its city limits. However, unlike its neighbor San Leandro, Hayward has stuck to its prohibition.

But with a resolution scheduled to be debated by the Hayward City Council this week in support of a bill to place regulatory oversight on dispensaries in the state, is the city rethinking its stance.

Probably not.

Assembly Bill 266 would enact a regulatory framework for licensing medical marijuana providers and create an Office of Marijuana Regulation. The legislation authored by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta, was overwhelmingly approved last month by the State Assembly, and also gives local governments oversight over licensing of dispensaries within their cities.

The State Senate Governance and Finance Committee will hear the bill this Wednesday, July 15.

For much of the past decade, the Hayward City Council has been one of the most vehement opponents against the perceived overreach into local affairs by legislators in Sacramento, primarily involving takebacks of local tax revenue.

Under the proposed bill, local jurisdictions would have the final say in approving and revoking the licenses of dispensary owners. The regulations would also allow cities economically struggling cities like Hayward to create a new revenue stream from administrative fees stemming from the licensing of dispensaries.

However, while Hayward may support AB 266, strong opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries in the city persists. A bit of pragmatism might also factor into the equation as the state veers closer than ever toward legalizing marijuana. Bonta’s bill is the most desirable of the bunch because it offers local control to cities, the Hayward leaders believe.

“This bill contains local municipal authority and control at a much greater level,” said Hayward City Manager Fran David. “While the City of Hayward may not want to permit local dispensaries, we do want to preserve our right and authority to do so; hence the recommended support of this bill.”

The wording of the resolution also bears similar sentiment. “The Mayor and City Council and Hayward Police Department strongly oppose any production, distribution, or sales of marijuana within the City limits,” the resolution reads.

In addition, a city staff report added, “Although the City Council has not been supportive of medical marijuana sales locally, given the nature of other competing proposals that severely preempted local control, the Council may choose to support AB 266 because it is the most acceptable option for consideration at this time.”

The issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hayward has ostensibly been on the back burner for several years following a moratorium placed on its existence starting in 2010.

Among the current set of councilmember Francisco Zermeno has long been one of the strongest opponents of dispensaries in Hayward. Since, at least, 2010, Zermeno has described the medical marijuana as a health care issue better served by hospitals. Just last month, during a council meeting, he declared no “marijuana stores” in Hayward.

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Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.