The pot that fell through the cracks

Well, the last week’s story, “Fate of Alameda pot club likely heading to court,” doesn’t really have a happy ending for anyone.  The City Council just said no to the Purple Elephant medical marijuana dispensary on Webster Street. (Say, wouldn’t that business name give you a little red flag regarding its inventory — other than children’s toys.)

Not that, if one is trying to open a pot dispensary, one would necessarily go to City Hall and say, “Howdy. We’re going to sell pot over on Webster Street for people with medical problems. How about a nice business license. Here’s our check.”

Chances are, that wouldn’t fly. So instead, you might just mention that you’re going to sell “miscellaneous retail,” which seems like a smarter way to get that license.

So, they opened last summer, the city somehow discovered that miscellaneous retail is pot-related and revoked its license and now the business has said it’s taking the city to court to stay in operation.

People have pretty strong opinions about pot. It’s a love-hate thing, even while the state goes about reconsidering whether or not it should be legalized. The council didn’t make a statement about whether medical marijuana dispensaries are bad or good, nor whether marijuana is bad or good, though surely they each have their own opinions on the topic. Instead, the council chose to put a moratorium on dispensaries as a land use issue, to look at how they affect health and safety.

The bad thing here is that, if the city is concerned about those issues, how did this go through in the first place? It’s one of those slip-ups that has caused bad news for the operation, its customers and the people in the West End who feel their business district isn’t the right place for it. A lot of people have been affected. We could blame the dispensary owner for trying to slip through the cracks with his “miscellaneous retail” line, but, frankly, if I got a mailer from a company called Purple Elephant that only sold miscellaneous retail, I’d have a pretty good suspicion there was something the Purple Elephant was keeping to itself.

If another business applies for a license and it’s called, say, The Joint, and sells undefined, miscellaneous items, it would be prudent for the city to do a little research before making any decisions.


  • G. WilliamsI

    “The bad thing here is that, if the city is concerned about those issues, how did this go through in the first place.” Is this really the only, “bad thing”? Our neighbors who suffer from pain and illness are being deprived of their medicine. Isn’t this a, “bad thing”?
    Cailifornians have stated quite clearly that they want the sick to have whatever therapy helps them, including marijuana. The California Supreme Court has supported the voter’s will. But in Alameda, if you’re in pain, don’t look for compassion here; we can’t afford it. We’re too busy guarding our property to care about the pain of our neighbors.
    It’s time for you in the press to put two and two together. Why do you think people are willing to spend money to buy medical marijuana when they could just as easily get prescription medication for pain for five bucks at Walmart? Why risk arrest when Tylenol is sold over the counter? The answer, in case you can’t see the obvious, is that they do. Pharmaceutical companies are hardly going broke.
    But sometimes the pain is too great to be controlled by these methods alone, so those in pain go to their doctors and ask for more help. That help is a prescription for medical marijuana.
    To those who are suffering with the after effects of chemotherapy, chronic migraine headaches, arthritis and a host of other debilitating conditions, marijuana is a friend, not a joke, and the closing of a Compassionate Pharmacy is not a property issue, it’s a heartless crime.

  • John Piziali

    Lucinda. When you wrote this article it may have been helpful to check with the City to find out what the process is that a person would go through to open a retail business in Alameda. Then we would know if the Purple Elephant followed the correct process. Or did the City actually screw up. Just a thought.

  • Lucinda Ryan

    Hi, John,

    The linked story pretty much tells the process in this case. Apply for a license, get accepted or rejected, or be asked to take more steps, give more information, before the city makes a decision. In some cases, the city may also want a use permit, but not in this instance.
    Here’s a link to the city’s application form. http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/business/pdf/ResBusLicApp.pdf

  • D Brown

    What is the big deal? Medical marijuana is legal in California, and to be frank, the persons who go into the dispensaries have to have a doctor’s recommendation. You can’t just go in and look at what there is and then buy it. And I’m sure that people who have bought it aren’t hanging around on the corner, trying to illegally sell it to someone with no doctor’s recommendation. The taxes generated by the sale of medical marijuana (not insubstantial) can help our struggling island economy.

    How many liquor stores are on the island? How many people get behind the wheel of a car and drive after having “a couple of beers”? Pot smokers, on the other hand, drive slower and more carefully. And they’re happier. :)