As reported last night by Michael Montgomery, who doubles as a reporter for KQED News and for the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has written to Jean Quan, Oakland’s mayor-elect, to caution her about the city’s ambitious new medical marijuana law. (Here’s a PDF of the three-page letter, dated Dec. 8, 2010: O’Malley-Quan letter.)

O’Malley noted in the letter that her office has “a long-standing policy of declining to issue advisory opinions as to the legality of any particular conduct.” She went on to say that as a cancer survivor, she “certainly understands the benefits for those in need of the medicinal use of marijuana in various forms.” Nevertheless, she said, her office has ongoing concerns about whether the Oakland’s new medical marijuana cultivation ordinance—which would license and tax four massive pot farms in the city—comply with state law.

The letter includes two clear warnings to Oakland officials. First, that the new ordinance will not provide a defense against criminal charges if it’s found to go beyond the provisions of the state’s medical marijuana laws. And second, it’s possible that city officials and employees could face state or federal charges for implementing the new ordinance.

Michael Montgomery’s California Watch blog post
on the letter outlines a couple of points of tension between Oakland’s ordinance and state law:

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.

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to discuss the medical pot ordinance next Tuesday.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at:


Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor