Supervisors OK regulations on where pot dispensaries can be located



City News Service

A reluctant San Diego County Board of Supervisors gave final approval Wednesday to a package of regulations aimed at reining in medical marijuana outlets in unincorporated areas.

Pot activists said the rules were too strict, while most government officials wanted an all-out ban on medical marijuana.

The ordinance codifying the rules was passed 4-1 on its second reading, with Supervisor Ron Roberts dissenting.

“I’m more convinced than ever that what we’re doing is the wrong thing,” he said.

The zoning component regulates dispensaries to industrial areas and requires that they area at least least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, churches and playgrounds.

All dispensaries also have to be approved by the Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s become clear this ordinance creates a de-facto ban on dispensaries,” said Kate Valentine, a member of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, because the 1,000-foot setback requirement leaves the only available properties “out in the middle of nowhere.”

County staffers highlighted 10 available sites, including near Gillespie Field and the Ramona Airport, off Highway 78 close to Julian, Alpine overlooking Interstate 8, Spring Valley off state Route 94, Campo and Borrego Springs.

Last week, they said there would be 16 locations under the regulations.

Jeff Murphy, the deputy director of planning and land use for the county, said the sites do not need to be “turnkey ready” to satisfy the law, only reasonably accessible with available utilities.

Audience members shouted out that some of the named sites were too close to homes or schools.

The regulations come 14 years after California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. The supervisors have been criticized in the past for dragging their feet on establishing regulations.

Some speakers at the supervisors’ meeting called for an outright ban on medical marijuana facilities, something they say has been adopted by several counties and 200 cities.

“You can regulate (dispensaries) all you want but you won’t stop the crime associated with them,” Barbara Gordon said. She described the dispensaries as fronts for selling the drug.

On a board known for frequent unanimous votes, none of the supervisors rushed to make a motion to pass the regulations, prompting board Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price to say they were “in a stalemate.”

Supervisor Bill Horn gave in after about 30 seconds and made the motion to approve the ordinances.

The county clerk’s office credited the second to Supervisor Dianne Jacob, but her voice could not be heard in the audience.