The City of Oakland is facing another possible legal hurdle in the race to license and tax commercial marijuana cultivation – the Alameda County district attorney.
A Dec. 8 letter from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to Mayor-elect Jean Quan, obtained by California Watch, warns that city officials could face the wrath of federal drug agents if an ordinance authorizing some of the world’s biggest pot farms runs afoul of California’s medical marijuana laws.
Federal and local authorities have already warned Oakland over the cannabis cultivation ordinance approved by the Oakland city council last July.
City officials say the ordinance is an effort to bring order to Oakland’s thriving pot-growing scene and earn millions in tax revenue. They also say the ordinance hews closely to state medical marijuana laws, which allow for marijuana cultivation within a closed loop of patients and providers.
But District Attorney O’Malley’s letter cites specific areas where the ordinance could violate provisions in state law governing medical marijuana collectives. The central point is that under the plan Oakland's pot farms would be taxed as entities separate from businesses that dispense medical cannabis.
What’s more, O’Malley’s letter suggests Oakland city employees – including city council members – could get caught holding the bag if the feds decide the ordinance violates state law:
It remains an open question whether public officers or public employees who aid and abet or conspire to violate state or federal laws in furtherance of a city ordinance, are exempt from criminal liability.
The Oakland City Council is scheduled to discuss challenges to the ordinance Dec. 21. Applications for cannabis cultivation permits are due the following day. City officials say they’re still on track to issue licenses by early next year.