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County votes to regulate medical marijuana collectives

By JAMES R. RIFFEL

City News Service

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved regulations for the operation of medical marijuana collectives in unincorporated areas, and allowed the Sheriff’s Department to inspect records at the outlets.

Supervisor Ron Roberts dissented in the 4-1 vote, and called some of the provisions too stringent.

The supervisors have been accused of dragging their feet to avoid allowing marijuana collectives to operate in the county since California’s “Compassionate Use Act” was enacted by voters in 1996.

“I think we ought to comply with the law and the spirit of the law,” Roberts said. He objected to an amendment that will keep marijuana collectives at least 1,000 feet away from homes, schools, playgrounds, churches and other marijuana collectives.

The 1,000-foot setback was originally proposed by county planners, but was decreased by the county’s Planning Commission when it reviewed the proposed ordinance.

The 1,000-foot minimum distance was restored on a motion by Supervisor Dianne Jacob, which means there will be 16 sites in unincorporated areas of San Diego County where collectives can be located, according to Jeff Murphy, the deputy director of planning and land use for the county.

There would have been 25 under the relaxed buffer zone standards forwarded by the Planning Commission, Murphy said.

The collectives must obtain permits, be located on industrial-zoned land, and keep records for on-site inspection by sheriff’s deputies. They must also install alarm and surveillance systems, maintain lighting and use equipment to prevent break-ins.

Advocates believe marijuana can relieve chronic pain from various illnesses and injuries, and help cancer patients better tolerate chemotherapy. Opponents claim there is no proof of medical benefits and, even if there are some, it would be better to get pills from a pharmacy than marijuana cigarettes from collectives.

Martha Sullivan, of Del Mar, told the supervisors their 14-year delay in implementing voter-passed Proposition 215 has created a “Wild West atmosphere” surrounding medical marijuana. Industrializing the collectives will force them to become money-making businesses, she said.

Eugene Davidovich, who was acquitted in March of allegedly selling marijuana to an undercover detective, said placing the Sheriff’s Department in charge of regulating the collectives “is absurd.”

“This is not a criminal enterprise,” Davidovich said. He favored having the Department of Health and Human Services oversee the centers.

Davidovich and other supporters said the buffer zones favored by the supervisors mean the available locations proposed by the county will not be useful to the cooperatives.

A number of speakers from anti-drug organizations asked the supervisors to ban the collectives outright, but lawyers with the county counsel’s office advised them that they believe the courts will rule against jurisdictions that prohibit them.

Jacob noted that people on both sides of the medical marijuana debate spoke out against the regulations, but said “what the staff brought before us is the best we can do.”

The zoning ordinance will be finalized at next week’s meeting.