sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

September 5, 2011

Cannabis and… errr… the Complexities of Oakland Pride

A lot comes to mind when one thinks of Oakland: Black Panthers, high crime, murdered journalists,  posh white enclaves surrounded by ghettos with hipsters on the edges of the ghettos.  Speaking of hipsters, Oakland now has a new claim to fame: “medical” marijuana:

Oakland has stayed at the forefront of the cannabis legalization movement, with advocates and city government working hand in hand for more than 15 years.

Now, folks will finally get the chance to light up outside City Hall. Legally, that is.

A cannabis street fair touted as the first in the nation is set for this weekend, featuring speakers, music, booths and vendors. But perhaps the most unusual attraction will be the “215 area,” a designated spot directly in front of City Hall where those with a valid medical cannabis card will be able to ingest, smoke or vaporize their pot. There will be devices to help folks make their own hash, a marijuana derivative. The open-air lounge, so to speak, is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

The “215” in the name is a reference to Proposition 215, the 1996 state ballot measure that legalized personal use of medical marijuana.

“Patients need to take their medicine when they need to,” said Kim Cue, a Berkeley resident who is chief executive of the International Cannabis & Hemp Expo, which starts Saturday at noon. “Being a patient myself, that’s something that’s mandatory.”

In the years since voters approved Prop. 215, Oakland has increasingly found itself at the forefront of a fight to test the limits of the law. The city is believed by Oakland’s elected officials and cannabis activists to be the first in the nation to license dispensaries. A battle with the federal government involving an early cannabis-buying cooperative in Oakland went to the Supreme Court in 2001 – which the dispensary lost. City voters in 2004 passed Measure Z, making possession of small amounts of pot the lowest priority for police. Underground pot clubs have been operating ever since. In 2009, Oakland voters passed a measure to tax and regulate cannabis businesses – the first such tax in the country.

The city also has an array of cannabis-related businesses, particularly in a section of downtown known as Oaksterdam. The city’s pot identity is something the expo’s promoters, as well as locals, want to tout.

“Oakland needs to be the tourist destination for cannabis,” said Salwa Ibrahim, who handles government relations for Oaksterdam University, which trains students for the industry. “We felt like a street fair for the cannabis industry would help solidify that.”

Salwa Ibrahim, seen here with Barack Obama...

...and here with Nancy Pelosi. Perky and attractive Ms. Ibrahim doesn't come across as a doper. More like a budding local politico.

And this is you know who:

Sorry, just couldn't help it.

This is the Third Annual Hemp Expo.  Previously the event was held indoors, in the nearby Cow Palace.  If my readers are wondering if I located any pictures of people getting high in with Oakland City Hall in the background, the answer is no:
Photographers in Oakland aspiring for a shot of someone legally smoking marijuana in front of city hall had the opportunity snatched away by officials during a downtown Hemp Expo over the weekend.
Though the city hosted the two-day International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, which spanned several blocks of Frank Ogawa Plaza and included an area where medical marijuana patients could smoke in public, photographers and videographers were prohibited from capturing images of people smoking with city hall in the background.
“It’s not that we don’t want that picture. It’s that we try to keep this area of city hall, a public park, free of smoke and inhalation.” Arturo Sanchez, Asst. to the Oakland City Administrator.
Is Arturo Sanchez smoking?
For the record, while I’m no fan of pot, I support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.  However, medical marijuana is a shameless lie, and the Oaksterdam crowd knows it.  All serious users around here have medical marijuana id cards.  To obtain an id they go to a doctor with a reputation for issuing prescriptions, and invent an illness.
Prop 19, an initiative to legalize the drug in CA failed in November 2010, largely due to  efforts of the dealers.  The Proposition was polling pretty well until late October when some backers got on local TV and started complaining about “the language”.  I hear something else was going on.  More and more dispensaries were opening up, and the prices were dropping.  If cannabis was legalized growers with a couple of plants in their closets would be wiped out.
And so now we have the city of Oakland celebrating semi-legal dope.

Half-baked Oakland pride: Not directly in front of the City Hall, but close.



  1. If everyone in Oakland is stoned maybe there’d be fewer murders. Most “medical” pot smokes I know just use it as an excuse.

    Comment by Harrison — September 5, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    • I don’t even know anyone who pretends that it’s for medical reasons. It’s a sham.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — September 5, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

    • Fewer murders? Probably so.

      But Obama will smoke up the entire D.C. supply. 😉

      Comment by Always On Watch — September 6, 2011 @ 3:40 am

  2. “Oakland needs to be the tourist destination for cannabis,” said Salwa Ibrahim, who handles government relations for Oaksterdam University, which trains students for the industry. “We felt like a street fair for the cannabis industry would help solidify that.”

    What to say to that?

    BTW, Obama looks like a pot-smokin’ pimp in that old photo.

    Comment by Always On Watch — September 6, 2011 @ 3:39 am

  3. […] Oaklanders are trying so hard, they are — oh — experimenting with making themselves a tourist destination for “medical” marijuana.  But there are no good museums, theaters or anything that can pass for a vibrant city life.  […]

    Pingback by Does Oakland Deserve to Be Occupied? « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — November 19, 2011 @ 9:41 am

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