San Jose Could Boost Marijuana Fines 5,000%

San Jose's medical cannabis clubs are facing a conundrum: shut down by Oct. 17 or face fines.

But those $25 fines could be increased to as much as $50,000, under a plan being considered by the city council. Councilmembers on Tuesday decided to put off a decision on the new ordinance by asking staff for a report in 30 days.

"We need to have some remedy, some way of getting folks to do the right and, unfortunately, sometimes fines are what work," Council member Rose Herrera said.

The proposed ordinance comes as San Jose police are looking to increase the fines on medical marijuana establishments to "encourage compliance" with a new set of laws, passed over the summer, that prohibit marijuana stores in most of the city, according to San Jose Inside.

For "public nuisance" violations, fines could be $2,500 for the first violation. "Operation and record-keeping" violations could cost $5,000 to $10,000, and the most-serious violations would be punishable by $10,000 to $50,000 fines, the website reported.

"The more fines they make on legitimate operations, the easier they make it for drug dealers," said Dave Hodges, who owns the A2C2 cannabis club in San Jose.

A three-month grace period for medical marijuana businesses to comply with the new rules that advocates say essentially outlaws the industry ends on Oct. 17.

There were about 90 pot clubs in San Jose in July before they were forced to apply for a permit with the city. To date, only seven clubs have received preliminary approval.

"We're trying to make sure our dispensaries are good neighbors," Mayor Chuck Reed said. "They don't cause trouble. This would remove those controls."

Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocates acting as "Sensible San Jose" have gathered enough signatures to put their own ordinance before voters in June 2016 -- an ordinance with much looser restrictions.

"How it is actually working now under state law and not under some impossible system of over-regulation," Sensible San Jose director James Anthony said of the ordinance.

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