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City Council rejects medical marijuana dispensary regulations

By JOE BRITTON

City News Service

The City Council declined Tuesday to endorse proposed regulations that would govern medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego, opting instead to forward the package to a committee for more vetting.

The recommendations were made by the 11-member Medical Marijuana Task Force, which was established by the City Council last September amid concern over the proliferation of unlicensed dispensaries in the city.

Last month, the task force recommended the City Council adopt laws that would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries and areas where children frequent.

The panel also called for medical marijuana dispensaries to be barred from locating within 500 feet of each other.

Under the proposed regulations, medical marijuana dispensaries would also have to hire security and obtain appropriate land-use permits. The task force also called for limiting the hours medical marijuana store fronts can operate and requiring the businesses to operate as nonprofits.

Without an endorsement, the City Council voted 7-1 to refer the task force’s recommendations to a community planning committee prior to a hearing before the Land Use and Housing Committee in March.

Council members Tony Young, Kevin Faulconer and Sherri Lightner agreed to refer the task force’s recommendations to the Land Use and Housing Committee, but said more work needs to be done before agreeing to them.

“I think it’s important for us to continue to have this discussion,” Young told his colleagues. “I think that we should have that discussion at Land Use and Housing. However, there are still a lot of concerns that I have on the impact on communities when it comes to the facilitation of this issue.”

At a prior hearing on the subject, several community members were opposed to allowing any medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, calling instead for a prohibition.

Councilman Carl DeMaio, who didn’t support the formation of the task force, cast the lone dissenting vote, arguing the regulations “open the door” to more medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

He said he sympathizes with the sick who use medical marijuana, but said there are abuses.

“What I don’t believe we should make available are corner shops where marijuana is sold as a commodity under the guise of a patient-caregiver relationship,” DeMaio said.

Councilman Todd Gloria said the task force’s recommendations are needed to “provide clear rules of the road” for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego.

Councilwomen Donna Frye and Marti Emerald agreed.

“The goal here is to put in some guidelines that actually make sense and people can understand what the rules are,” Frye said, adding that the guidelines put forward by the state are not clear.

It became legal in California for seriously ill patients under the supervision of a physician to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then, dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives have sprung up in San Diego.