This week we got our first look at the “Yes on T” flyer currently being distributed. We support the efforts of those Berkeley advocates for medical marijuana who have acted responsibly to help people find their way through the complex legal and practical problems that the chaos of State law around this issue has created. However, the assertions in the flyer urging a “yes” vote on Berkeley Measure T are so misleading that we feel compelled to reply.
The Yes on T flyer FAILS to tell voters That Measure T allows an additional dispensary in Berkeley – an increase OPPOSED by City staff. It asserts that Measure T will restrict these dispensaries to commercial areas, but it fails to point out that Berkeley’s commercial areas include small neighborhood districts where single family homes are immediately adjacent to commercial uses such as Claremont/The Uplands, The Alameda/Hopkins, Hopkins/Monterey, Sacramento/Dwight, Solano, College, and parts of University and San Pablo Avenues as well as multi-family districts like Telegraph and Downtown. Measure T PERMANENTLY STRIPS AWAY the right to comment by nearby homes and businesses. A dispensary can locate in any commercial district with no notice, no public hearing and no comment allowed!
The flyer asserts that dispensaries must be at least 600 feet away from any school but fails to mention that this distance is reduced by Measure T from 1,000 feet, and that State guidelines recommend that smoking of marijuana be prohibited 1,000 feet from schools, AND from youth centers and parks, which are not even mentioned in Measure T. The large marijuana growing areas allowed by Measure T are directly adjacent to the City’s Skateboard Park and Blue Barn Playing Fields where our kids gather. Recent studies show that Berkeley teens use marijuana at twice the rate of other teens in California. Measure T doesn’t begin to address the programs and protections which must be put in place to distance marijuana production and sales from our youth.
The Yes on T flyer asserts that cultivation is limited to no more than six locations (30,000 square feet each, that’s about four acres total) – ONLY in West Berkeley’s industrial zone. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. In addition to 4 acres in West Berkeley, Measure T allows every house and apartment in Berkeley to grow up to 200 square feet of marijuana indoors, in addition to 10 plants outside. 200 square feet of marijuana can produce up to 24 pounds a year worth about $72,000. City staff OPPOSED setting residential cultivation this high because of negative impacts in other communities that have allowed this level of home based cultivation.
Residential cultivation is supposed to be for personal or collective medical marijuana users, but who will know? There is NO REQUIREMENT that residential growers have a license and no oversight or enforcement is provided by Measure T. Growing marijuana indoors requires significant increases in electricity and water use and frequently involves use of pesticides and insecticides. We’ve all read about fires being caused by overtaxed electrical systems used to grow marijuana. Newspaper reporters have documented the selling of chemicals not recommended for human consumption for use by marijuana growers - in Berkeley. The water used in cultivation will wash these toxins down our drains into our creeks and into the Bay.
The Yes on Measure T flyer asserts that compliance with health and safety codes and a police-approved security plan are required. Measure T MAKES NO MENTION OF HEALTH AND SAFETY CODES whatsoever and requires a police-approved security plan ONLY for dispensaries and the large West Berkeley growing facilities. The security plans are for the benefit of the marijuana facilities – not the public, and no security plan of any kind is required for residential growers.
The Yes on Measure T flyer further asserts that cultivators will be required to provide free, safe medicine to low-income patients at a dispensary. Again, this is simply NOT TRUE. Measure T only says that the provision of free medicine to low-income patients “may” be considered – it does not say “shall.” In the same vague language, it says that growing marijuana should be organic to the “maximum extent reasonable” – providing no guarantee whatsoever. There is NO REQUIREMENT for labeling of medicine with place of origin, potency, or pesticide residue.
Supporters of Measure T say they are proud of the process used to write it. City records show that five meetings were held by a four-member Council Subcommittee. Since some of these meetings might be attended by a quorum of Council Members, they were correctly designated as City Council Meetings. However, NONE of these meetings was posted on the regular Council meeting schedule so THERE WAS NO NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC! City records do not show any participation by law enforcement, school, or public health officials, neighborhood organizations or other important constituencies.
Your NO VOTE ON MEASURE T will send a message to the Council to do this over using a broad-based process that involves the whole community, and results in legislation good for Berkeley as well as for patients and the marijuana industry.