August 1, 2006 > One toke over the line
One toke over the line
by Susana Nuñez
At the July 27 Newark City Council meeting, the council proclaimed August as Newark Chamber of Commerce Month in recognition of the chamber's 100th anniversary. Chamber CEO Linda Ashley, along with other members, accepted the proclamation from Mayor David Smith. Ashley took the opportunity to invite one and all to a special 100th birthday bash to be held Aug. 16 at Swiss Park.
In other matters, the council considered passing an urgency ordinance that reinforced the municipal code's conformity with federal and state law. This matter arose in response to a business currently operating as an unlicensed medical marijuana facility. According to City Manager John Becker, the business license application from "Kind-Care" stated intent to market "vitamin and herbal supplements." However, the establishment went immediately into the sale and distribution of marijuana, purportedly for medical purposes. Possession and sale of marijuana are both illegal under federal law, therefore staff recommended that the city not permit such facilities to operate.
Due, in part, to numerous complaints from nearby businesses, Kind-Care now faces eviction. Newark is not a party to the eviction proceedings but the council decided to clarify their position should Kind-Care or any other medical marijuana business consider applying for a conditional use permit. Such operations are not welcome in Newark.
Oakland attorney, James Anthony, spoke out against the ordinance and suggested that a moratorium would be a better course of action, stating this would be consistent with both Fremont and Union City. Anthony's partner, Robert Raich, has represented two medical marijuana clients all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court attempting to win a right to operate in California. He lost both decisions.
At Thursday's council meeting, Anthony indicated his client's willingness to negotiate "reasonable accommodations" that would allow them to continue selling drugs. He dismissed any public nuisance complaints as "so-called negative, secondary effects;" and strongly implied legal action should the council pass the resolution on the agenda. The item passed 4-0.
In closing, Mayor Smith noted the beginning of the council's regular summer recess. They will reconvene Sept. 14, which is also the kick-off date for "Newark Days," an annual carnival and celebration of civic pride. The meeting adjourned in memory of Geraldine Sherer, longtime resident and flower shop owner, who recently passed away from lung cancer. The council extended their condolences to her family and friends.