Jeff Wilcox, a former commercial real estate developer turned medical marijuana advocate, was one of the first in line for a cultivation permit. He spent $120,000 and two years developing a $20 million plan to transform a 172,000-square-foot office park he owns into a high-tech facility capable of growing 23 pounds of medical marijuana a day, an annual crop worth up to $58 million. In accordance with city rules, much of that money would have been turned back into city coffers and into nonprofit organizations.
Many of the investors who flocked to Oakland are now taking their money and their marijuana know-how elsewhere.
“I applaud the city for pushing the envelope, but it’s frustrating for those of us who spent a lot of time and money on this process,” said Derek Peterson, a former Wall Street banker turned marijuana entrepreneur who spent $80,000 on his permit application.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia now have medical marijuana laws on the books; Peterson is applying for a permit to do just that in Arizona.
“Right now Oakland is far too visible for this kind of investment,” said Scott Hawkins, who worked as a consultant on a permit application on behalf of Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana trade school here. “Investors don’t want to risk their capital in this situation unless things can get worked out between the City Council and the Department of Justice and the city attorney’s office.”