Berkeley voters will likely face landmark ballot initiatives that would make the city the friendliest place in California for medical cannabis users, sex workers and some trees.
City Clerk Sherry Kelly verified that supporters of the Angel Initiative, t he Patient Access to Medical Cannabis Act and the Berkeley Tree Act of 2004 had gathered more than the 2,077 valid signatures to place their measures on the November ballot.
The Angel Initiative, sponsored by the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), woul d make enforcing prostitution laws in the city a low police priority and put the city on record asking the state to decriminalize prostitution.
SWOP founder Robyn Few said Berkeley will be the first city in the state to vote on decriminalizing prostitution.
Last month the City Council rejected a compromise that would have put the council on record supporting decriminalization, but would not have made enforcement of prostitution laws a low priority.
The Medical Cannabis Act would give Berkeley the most liberal marijuana plant laws in the state, if voters approve the measure. Licensed patients would be allowed to grow as many plants as they deemed necessary, instead of the city’s current ten plant limit. Also, if the federal government cracked down on th e practice, the city would be required to distribute the cannabis.
The measure would also codify a peer review group to oversee the city’s four pot clubs and would amend the zoning ordinance to require that permits be granted for qualified applicants. The Cannabis Buyers Cooperative recently gave up a fight to move their operation from Shattuck Avenue to Sacramento Street amid fierce neighborhood objections.
Like the Sex Worker advocates, cannabis liberalization supporters had offered to withdraw their initiative in return for a compromise deal that would have set the plant limit at 72 plants. However, the City Council rejected that proposal in April.
Somewhat less controversial is the Berkeley Tree Act, which would create a new board to encourage the planting of healthy trees and regulate changes to trees on public land. Anyone who wanted to work on a public tree would have to get a license from the tree board, said the measure’s author, Elliot Cohen. In addition, any development that might affect a p ublic tree would require a “tree impact report.”
The council is scheduled to consider the measures July 13 and is expected to mount a campaign opposing the sex worker and cannabis measures in November. All measures require a simple majority to pass. ›