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Panel opposes marijuana dispensary rules

La Jolla Community Planning Association trustees are sending a message to the City Council that the city’s Medical Marijuana Task Force’s proposed guidelines for siting dispensaries are too lenient.

The board voted 9-2-1 last week to oppose proposed amendments to the city’s municipal code, which were to be considered by the City Council on Tuesday.

The recommendations, submitted to the City Council on Nov. 6, would not allow medical marijuana dispensaries to be located within 1,000 feet of children’s facilities such as schools, playgrounds, libraries and child care facilities, while allowing them to be as close as 500 feet from one another.

“I don’t think we should get involved with doctor’s recommendations on what drugs are prescribed or the efficacy of marijuana use for cancer treatment, etc.,” said Glen Rasmussen, who made the motion to oppose the task force’s recommendations. “It just seems locating these dispensaries 500 feet from one another and within 1,000 feet of children’s facilities is too close.”

Rasmussen added he didn’t feel qualified to render an opinion as to what the optimum distances would be for locating dispensaries.

Trustee Mike Costello agreed that 500- and 1,000-foot distances were far too low and suggested, “We need to make it a mile or two.”

Chairman Joe LaCava, who is the outgoing chairman of the community council in Bird Rock where a dispensary recently opened, noted the issue is qualitatively different than most that come before the LJCPA, which is an advisory board to the city council on land-use issues.

“The main concern isn’t land use but how they operate, what kind of element they attract and how that affects the community character,” he said, noting there’s strong evidence of a real medical benefit to people suffering from cancer treatment.

“But people are concerned that these dispensaries should operate like a doctor’s office or a pharmacy: They don’t think it’s a special category, " he added.

The task force recommended that the cooperatives be permitted differently depending on their size.

“If you have less than 100 members you go through a (city) staff decision,” LaCava said. “And if you have more than 100 members you go to a (city) hearing officer. In La Jolla we get to hear both. But others suggest it should go to the City Council.”

Pharmacist and CPA Trustee Orrin Gabsch said he didn’t think it fair that medical marijuana dispensaries don’t have to follow the same rules as other entities distributing pharmaceuticals.

“They’re not required to get a license,” he said. “You just have to call yourself a nonprofit or a caregiver. There’s a lot of confusion as to what a nonprofit is.”

Audience members discussing the dispensary issue were mixed on whether the task force’s proposed regulations were too restrictive or not restrictive enough.

One person noted medical marijuana is legal and said ways ought to be looked into to tax it and make money off of it to help during these fiscally austere times.

Another warned against overconcentration of dispensaries, pointing out one should suffice to serve the medical needs for any given La Jolla neighborhood.