San Diego City Council Passes Botched Dispensary Ordinance


Congratulations to the California Cannabis Coalition and Citizens for Patients Rights for collecting over 46,000 signatures to suspend San Diego’s ill-considered medical cannabis ordinance severely restricting collectives.

The ordinance was officially suspended as of 4:20 PM, Friday May 27th, when the signatures were turned in. It will stay suspended until the registrar validates the count. If there are over 31,029 valid signatures (as seems likely), the ordinance will stay on hold and go before the voters for a referendum; otherwise, it will go back into effect.

Cal NORML Release 3/29/11 – San Diego MMJ advocates, patients, attorneys and collective
operators turned out in force yesterday to oppose the city’s proposed dispensary ordinance. They were particularly concerned about the extremely restrictive location requirements, which would have relegated dispensaries to a couple of small industrial zones in the city. Disabled patients testified that the proposed zones were remote and inaccessible by transit.

PHOTO: CalNORML director Dale Gieringer waits his turn to speak at the rally.

Cal NORML warned the council that the ordinance would be difficult to enforce and would lead to extensive litigation unless zoning restrictions were eased. San Diego currently has some 160 dispensaries, serving an estimated $100 – 200 million market. None of the existing dispensaries would be able to operate at their current location under the proposed regulations.

In the end, the council approved the ordinance while agreeing to ease some provisions: reducing a 1,000-foot buffer zone from sensitive areas to 600 feet and reducing the conditional use permit regulations one grade. It was unclear whether these would have any real impact, since dispensaries would still be forced into industrial zones.

The city council still has to decide on the licensing fees.

Given the extensive regulations imposed by the council, it will be at least a year or two before any new dispensary can be permitted. In the meantime, San Diego patients will have no alternative but to patronize the existing dispensaries, whose fate remains to be determined. While the ordinance calls on all dispensaries to be closed within 30 days, court challenges are certain.

Attorney Jeffrey Lake noted that existing dispensaries have a strong argument for staying business under Section 127.01012(d) of the Muncipal Code, provided they have demonstrated good faith in complying with prior code regulations.

Thanks to the many San Diegans who showed up at yesterday’s Council meeting. Although our side substantially outnumbered and out-debated our opponents, the city council succumbed to politicians’ habitual bad instinct of over-regulating. The Council’s ill-considered ordinance is highly unlikely to settle matters. San Diego patients’ long, draw-out battle for legal safe access to medicine is destined to continue.

– Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML

See more rally photos

Also see: San Diego approves sweeping medical pot limits

San Diego Hammers Down on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Despite Public Support
by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger’s Newsmagazine
Sunday Apr 3rd, 2011 9:27 PM

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