Planning commission sends pot regulations to city council

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

The Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to send a package of land-use regulations of marijuana dispensaries in San Diego to the City Council for final approval.

Dispensaries would be limited to industrial zones and operators would have to apply for a conditional use permit. Authorities do not want pot shops within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, youth facilities, churches, parks or other dispensaries.

Dispensary operators would also have to prove their nonprofit status and conform to restrictions on signage, security, lighting and hours of operation.

One study of the regulations estimated that collectives would be allowed to operate in 97 locations throughout the city.

"Ninety-seven still seems overly restrictive to me," said commission Chairman Eric Naslund, who cast one of the dissenting votes.

Naslund said the result would be "an outright ban" since a site might not actually be available for a dispensary to use — it could already be leased by another business or the owner might not agree to rent their space.

"It's incumbent on us to provide fair and humane treatment, where possible" for medical marijuana patients, based on state law, Naslund said.

There are an estimated 180 medical marijuana shops operating in San Diego — illegally, according to the city. Many operators of marijuana dispensaries have been cited for code violations by the City Attorney's Office.

About two hours worth of public speakers on the topic split roughly down the middle on whether the regulations are too restrictive or don't go far enough.

Caroline Short, of La Jolla, said the proliferation of the dispensaries and the people loitering near them have made San Diego a different kind of place.

"We all know they're used mainly by recreational users," Short said. "It's changed the fabric of our city."

Tony Silvia said opposition to the collectives is "NIMBYism."

If crime was such a problem around marijuana shops, then the police would be speaking out at the meeting, and they weren't, Silvia said.

Public safety issues surrounding the outlets are being handled separately.

With their vote, the commissioners amended the recommendation by planning staff by adding colleges and universities to the 1,000-foot exclusion distance; allowing the City Council to reduce the buffer to residential

neighborhoods to 600 feet; and giving the collectives a six-month grace period to meet the new regulations.

Naslund asked staff to conduct a more detailed study of the number of locations that would be available to collectives before the regulations go to the City Council for final approval.

   
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