- Posted by Laura Croft, Esq
- On December 19, 2016
- California, cannabis, dispensary, MCRSA, medical cannabis, moratorium, regulation, San Diego
An oasis of sun-kissed bodies, miles of beaches, perfect weather, and yet, a conservative stronghold against policies supporting medical cannabis. San Diego has a history of bitter rejection of California medical marijuana laws and an outright refusal to accept the will of the state’s voters, dating back 20 years to the enactment of Proposition 215.
In response to MCRSA, California’s first medical cannabis regulatory framework, almost all cities within San Diego County have reaffirmed previous bans on dispensaries and most have added new bans on cultivation and imposed an outright ban on deliveries.
On March 16 2016, San Diego County enacted a Medical Marijuana Collective Facility Interim Urgency Moratorium Ordinance effectuating a halt to the establishment of medical marijuana collective facilities. San Diego will extend the interim urgency period for up to 10 months and 15 days, as they determine a permanent regulatory scheme.
Amendments to the urgency ordinance that are under consideration include changing the 1,000 foot separation requirement for a residential area from parcels with residential zoning to parcels with residential use; limiting the number of dispensaries in a community; increasing the buffer distance from residences and other sensitive land sites; adding incorporated cities to the 1,000 foot separation requirement; requiring a Major Use Permit which would include public review; increased civil penalties for violators of the ordinance and increased enforcement.
Presently, San Diego City is the only jurisdiction, within the county, that allows “medical marijuana consumer cooperative corporations” to apply for the various approvals and permits under SDMC Chapter 4, Article 2, Division 15, needed to operate a legal dispensary or cultivation site. SDMC §141.0614. In the City of San Diego, those cultivating medical marijuana pursuant to state law must organize as a “Medical Marijuana Consumer Cooperative Corporation” and must apply for a permit with the City Manager. A “Medical Marijuana Collective” permit applicant must also obtain and Conditional Use Permit, with specific requirements, including restrictions on distance from residential homes, schools, libraries and other specified locations; lighting and security measures; signage; hours of operation and other health and safety measures.
The 17 other cities in the county have banned dispensaries altogether. In April 2016, the City of San Diego approved the 14th permitted dispensary, while simultaneously cracking down on illegally operating dispensaries with a combined criminal and civil punch, levying $830,000 total in civil fines for two dispensaries.
On a whole, residents of San Diego take a conservative stance on medical cannabis, fueled by passé fears that regulated cannabis will bring a medical cannabis criminal apocalypse, with little acknowledgement of the profound benefits of medical cannabis for patients in need. After El Cajon City banned dispensaries, cultivation and deliveries, Councilman Gary Kendrick warned the San Diego Tribune: “These people profit from the suffering of others. These marijuana dispensaries are targeting our children. We have to protect the children from drugs that can cause great, great damage to them.”
The San Diego County Supervisors are equally split on the issue of medical cannabis. While Greg Cox and Dave Roberts support measures for an effective regulation of medical activity, supervisors Dianne Jacob and Bill Horn are pushing for a complete ban on dispensaries and cultivation sites. Supervisor Bill Horn stated: “I’m opposed to the marijuana issue. I think Prop. 215 was misguided.”
Whether or not San Diego representatives are “opposed to the marijuana issue,” the State of California recognizes its profound medical benefits and is marching forward to protect patients in need and ensure safe access to medical Cannabis. With the recent passage of Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, it is time for San Diego to accept and regulate rather than continue its shameful history of delays and outright resistance to the spirit of Prop 215.
That, however, remains to be seen based on the recent guidelines issued by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department which state: The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department does not license or regulate recreational marijuana businesses or cultivation for recreational use. It is not legal to operate an unlicensed commercial enterprise which produces, manufactures or sells recreational marijuana or recreational marijuana products.
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