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City Council votes for resolution supporting Proposition 64

on November 2, 2016

The Oakland City Council met on Tuesday night, the the last meeting before the November 8 election, and considered a resolution in support of Proposition 64, a state ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use for people age 21 and over.

But first the council voted unanimously to approve a waterways enforcement equipment grant for the Oakland Police Department, despite the disapproval of several audience members. The $44,382 in funding will be used by September 30, 2017, to purchase equipment like jet skis and scuba dive gear for the Marine Enforcement Unit (MEU) of the police department.

“I strongly urge you to vote no,” said Oakland resident Shimare Leon during the public comment session. “I don’t believe that OPD has an executive management at the moment and it’s hard to say what is the use for waterways enforcement equipment in the long term.”

Resident Brian Geysen said that this purchase can be filed under “toys for boys.”

“We are talking about jet skis for the OPD to ride on Lake Merritt,” he said.

The council also unanimously passed the adoption of a new fire code by January 1, 2017.

Angela Robinson, Chief of Staff for the Oakland Fire Department (OFD), spoke before the council. “The item before you today was requested by the Public Safety Committee and the Community and Development Committee,” she said.”The amendment is required because of California State Building Standard Commissions and the Office of the Fire Marshall. Under state law, the city must adopt this model code by first repealing the existing fire code.”

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (at-large) requested to make a few comments before the council voted on the resolution, which she helped author, regarding the marijuana legalization initiative. She said that Proposition 64 would legalize, tax and regulate cannabis for adult use in the state of California.

“Folks asked me, ‘Why do we even need to legalize cannabis? After all, anyone who really wants to get their hands on it doesn’t exactly have trouble doing so right now. So what would be the benefit of the legalization?’” Kaplan said. “I felt it would be important to share that the benefit of legalization is not primarily about making it easier for people to get it.”

She went on to say that to her, that “the point is to end mass incarceration. The point is to end the decades and decades of punishing of people who have been convicted, in some cases years ago, of something that our nation has now come to the agreement is not really a crime. People who have cannabis offenses on their records are still to this day denied jobs, denied housing, denied student loans.”

She said that Proposition 64 would also create a pathway for people convicted of certain offenses to be released from jail and for people who have already served their sentences to have their records cleared. “The continuing punishment of people both through imprisonment and through the ongoing denial of a jobs and services because of their records is a great injustice,” she said. “We also know that it is by far racially disparate. It is almost exclusively African Americans who are targeted by these laws and so it is a great injustice that needs to be undone. And that in my view is the most important reason to vote yes on Proposition 64.”

In response to Kaplan’s statement, Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6) said that she voted for Proposition 64, but that she believes it does nothing with respect to equity, and that most communities “will receive none of the money that will be made by the legalization of marijuana. There is $50 million that is set aside to go to jurisdictions. $50 million across the state of California. That is laughable.”

She went on to say that Proposition 64 is a start but it is not the finish. “It is important that people push the state, the governor, the legislature to make sure that … this money goes back to the communities that has been harmed as a result of this,” Brooks said.

“It is important when we go on with Proposition 64 to understand that there is uneven enforcement of the law and there is concern that it will continue as the police are given leeway to enforce cannabis regulation as we legalize, that they will enforce things like smoking on the street,” said Matt Hummel, the chair of Cannabis Regulatory Commission for Oakland. “We need to make that sure when we move forward that we protect the citizens of Oakland around the effects of misapplying the law.”

The council passed the resolution in support Proposition 64 via a consensus vote. Their vote on several other items related to cannabis was moved to November 14.

On November 3, this story was updated to reflect the council’s vote on the resolution supporting Proposition 64.

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