MILPITAS, California—With hundreds of protesters jammed into City Hall, the city council of Milpitas, California, unanimously approved a complete ban on commercial marijuana.
The original agenda for the Nov. 20 council meeting was for city staff to present their findings and proposals for commercial operations of marijuana business in the city, but the meeting turned into a rally by local residents who expressed their moral outrage against the cannabis industry.
Many protesters came after learning that one of the current council members, Anthony Phan, is also the principal of Pinnacle Strategy, a local consulting firm that helps the cannabis industry navigate governmental affairs and public relations.
Phan has been a vocal leader in the council, influencing the city government to allow commercial marijuana business in the city.
Milpitas previously decided to allow commercial marijuana stores to operate in the city, but hadn’t completed its study for the needed regulations.
The activists who participated in the discussion at the council meeting brought and distributed evidence of Phan’s connection to Pinnacle Strategy.
Phan participated in the first half of the meeting, but recused himself from discussing and voting on the issue due to his possible conflict of interest, as he was still consulting with the city attorney and CFPPC.
Many protesters at the meeting talked about mounting a recall against Phan.
The council chambers were packed to capacity to host the large number of participants who tried to join the meeting. Protesters stood outside the chamber on two floors in the hallways and in the lobby, watching a TV monitor that was showing a live broadcast of the meeting.
More than 400 protesters were in attendance, according to a press release issued after the meeting by the three organizations leading the opposition: California Coalition Against Drugs, Better Milpitas, and Silicon Valley Foundation for a Better Environment.
A long line of speakers waited to speak outside of the chamber all the way into the adjacent hallways on the second floor.
More than 100 people spoke during the council meeting, with the majority of commenters opposed to allowing the marijuana businesses.
Loud cheers and claps by the protesters could be heard from time to time after each speaker took a stand opposing recreational marijuana. The 4–0 vote (with council member Phan recusing himself) reflects an urgency to bar marijuana in the city until the council can draft a permanent ban.
“We started a petition against the proposed ordinance for marijuana and obtained over 4,000 signatures in just eight days. Mobilizing fellow citizens efficiently to stand up against drugs is important to our success,” said Jennifer Strohfus, chair of the Silicon Valley Foundation for a Better Environment.
“This great result reflects that unity and hard work are vital. Citizens should stay alert of the development of lawmaking and public-policy formulation at least for your own city, in an attempt to protect your families and future generations,” said Frank Lee, Bay Area director of California Coalition Against Drugs.
Under Proposition 64, approved by California voters in 2016, each municipality can decide whether to allow recreational marijuana. Prop 64 passed with 57 percent approval..
However, in cities with a large Asian-American population such as Milpitas, marijuana has met with strong resistance. Many people who spoke at the meeting expressed serious concerns about the safety of their communities and their children.