Public Comment

Measure JJ: A Response to the Planet Voter Guide

By Roger LaChance
Thursday October 30, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

Measure JJ will ensure that medical cannabis continues to be safely available to Berkeley’s patients and that the needs and rights of neighbors are respected. 

We appreciate that the Daily Planet recognizes that every initiative presents policy issues to be weighed and balanced by the voters. We write to clarify those issues because the Planet’s Oct. 21 Voter Guide was somewhat misleading on JJ. 

The measure’s history is unusual and may have led to the Planet’s misunderstanding.  

In 2004 the measure was subjected to an unconstitutional election using now-decertified electronic voting machines. When the Superior Court ordered the measure back on the ballot for 2008, the city council had already made two significant changes to the medical cannabis ordinance. Both are unaffected by JJ: 

1. JJ does not change the city council's current limit of no more than three collective dispensaries in the city. So it is incorrect to say that JJ supporters somehow contest the city’s “freeze” on the number of dispensaries. The number of dispensaries in Berkeley is unaffected by JJ—except to the extent that it helps to maintain the current number rather than allowing them to close for lack of zoning procedure. 

2. JJ does not change the city council’s proximity limit banning dispensaries from locating within 1,000 feet of schools or of each other. 

These two changes are a huge shift in the context of JJ in 2008. With the cap of three and the proximity limits in place, JJ recognizes clinics as an accepted use, and provides procedures and standards for them. 

JJ’s primary zoning effect is to help dispensaries relocate when they must. Today, two of Berkeley’s three dispensaries are on the verge of closing, slowly crushed between the need to relocate and the lack of clear directives for city staff to facilitate such a move. 

If two-thirds of our dispensaries close, it will drive thousands of patients to the dangers of the illicit market, deprive our city and state of significant tax revenue, and add dozens of dispensary service workers to the rolls of the unemployed and uninsured. 

Our existing dispensaries can relocate under JJ, but only if they meet the safety and operating standards of the Peer Review Committee, are at least 1,000 feet from schools, and are not located in residential zones. 

Berkeley’s existing dispensaries are grandfathered and entirely self-regulated. JJ will create a responsible system of regulation for the first time, in which city staff, clinic neighbors, and police will have an appropriate role. Such regulation is already well-developed in neighboring Oakland and San Francisco. 

JJ is endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party, Berkeley’s County Supervisor Keith Carson, the United Democratic Campaign of Berkeley, Alameda and Emeryville, the Oakland Tribune, and the Bay Guardian, among many others. The ballot argument in favor of JJ was signed in its entirety by two city council members, a Berkeley family practice doctor, a Cal Ph.D. social work researcher, and a harm reduction expert. Please see for more information. 

Measure JJ is well within Berkeley’s long tradition of putting progressive values into actual practice. Please support medical marijuana patients and clinics in Berkeley—vote Yes on Measure JJ. 


Roger LaChance is a member of Citizens for Sensible Medical Cannabis Regulation—Yes on JJ.