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Limits for medical marijuana stores advance

marijuana stores
The San Diego City Planning Commission Thursday approved a plan to regulate the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits, despite the commission’s chairman expressing concern that the proposed ordinance could be a de facto ban on such businesses.

The commissioners listened to staff recommendations as well as about 100 public speakers to determine the fate of marijuana stores in the city. They voted 3-2 to recommend the proposed ordinance to the City Council.

The topic has been highly volatile and speakers yesterday were largely split, with some viewing the collectives as a boon for sick individuals and others contending they encourage illegal drug use and draw in crime.

There are approximately 180 dispensaries in the city of San Diego, all of which are technically operating illegally under current zoning laws. The proposed rules would only allow medical marijuana stores in select commercial and industrial zones.

According to Americans for Safe Access San Diego chapter member Kate Valentine, this leaves only 97 parcels in the city where medical marijuana could be sold.

Additional restrictions include a 1,000 foot buffer zone between the shops and schools, youth centers, parks, day care centers, religious institutions and other dispensaries. Americans for Safe Access to say this may limit the available parcels to five or six that could meet all the conditions.

City officials could not confirm the numbers at the planning meeting.

However, Commissioner Tim Golba, who voted in favor of the recommendation, said he wants city staff to provide more data before the City Council acts, probably within two to six weeks.

“I think of everything we’ve seen today, this map … is potentially the most damning,” he said. “Even at 97 parcels that’s pretty restrictive if you assume half of those are either not available or landlords wouldn’t even consider renting to it. Now we’re down to 50 sites in the whole city that would be applicable. That’s probably overly restrictive in anybody’s eyes.”

The sentiment was echoed by Chairman Eric Naslund, who suggested the guidelines should be loosened.

“I want to make absolutely certain that it isn’t so overly restrictive that it becomes an outright ban and I think that that’s where the present ordinance is heading,” he said.

Some groups like San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods want even more restrictions. At a news conference on Wednesday, the group’s chairman, Scott Chipman, called for the shops to be at least 1,000 feet away from colleges, universities, residences, licensed treatment facilities and places where alcohol is sold. Additionally, the group wants the dispensaries to have 24-hour security and a police-regulated business permit.

How do deal with the stores has been a hot-button issue since California voters approved medical marijuana legislation in 1996. Local municipalities did little to regulate the establishments until the number of collectives boomed within the past few years.

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