City to develop zoning ordinance for medical marijuana collectives

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

The San Diego City Council directed the City Attorney’s Office on Monday to develop a zoning ordinance for medical marijuana collectives within city limits.

The regulations will be similar to what was passed earlier this year by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Estimates vary for how many marijuana dispensaries currently exist in the city, but there are at least 125 operating without specific regulations.

The ordinance will be an outgrowth of the work of a Marijuana Task Force appointed by the City Council, which identified commercial and industrial-zoned areas for dispensaries. Members also called for 1,000 feet of separation between dispensaries and schools, libraries, playgrounds and other youth facilities, and made proposals for adequate lighting, security, hours of operation and signage.

City Council members added more restrictions, calling for operators of dispensaries to apply for a conditional use permit; reducing the types of specific commercial zones that would be available; adding 1,000-foot separations from parks, churches and other collectives; and requiring that existing dispensaries meet the new regulations.

Numerous speakers on different sides of the medical marijuana issue spoke to the council, some of whom called the proposed regulations too restrictive.

Kate Valentine, of “Americans for Safe Access,” said the original task force recommendations would have allowed about 100 sites for collectives, but the added restrictions imposed by council members would reduce the number to 10-15.

She pointed out that the county zoning only allowed a few available locations.

“Safe access will be limited in the city, as well,” Valentine said.

Bill Bradshaw said there are twice as many “pot shops” in the city as there are pharmacies.

“When I see these people up here complaining about access, I just shake my head - they’re everywhere,” Bradshaw said.

City land use staff estimated that any proposed ordinance that comes out of the City Attorney’s Office will need to be publicly reviewed by a number of commissions and committees, meaning it might not come to the City Council for adoption until mid-January.

The resolution was approved 6-1, with Carl DeMaio dissenting and Marti Emerald absent.

Separate regulations regarding enforcing the operation of dispensaries are being taken up by the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.