The San Diego Dispensary Ordinance: Essentially a Ban

Since the vote this week, We have heard dozens of responses on how they feel about the possibility of legal dispensaries in the City of San Diego. Many are excited at the chance to see… legal, regulated facilities that will not face constant harassment by the City. Others are disappointed at the requirements, amendments, fees and overall restrictive nature of the ordinance. In the end, this ordinance, supported by many so-called dispensary “supporters,” is essentially a ban. San Diego did it again!

In reviewing the ordinance, one can plainly see the detailed restrictions that will be placed on dispensaries. Only a handful of zones will be authorized; distance requirements between dispensaries; distance requirements between dispensaries and “sensitive uses” such as schools, parks, and daycare facilities; distance requirements from residential areas; caps on the number of dispensaries in each district. The list goes on. What many people don’t understand is the process they will have to go through to obtain a level 3 conditional use permit. It starts with an application, an $875 application fee, and an $8000 deposit. Any costs associated with the application are to be paid by the applicant, hence the initial $8000 deposit. Estimates for overall fees are in the range of $8000-$24,000, and there is no guarantee that the permit will be granted. Once the application has been processed and reviewed, a hearing with a hearing officer will be set. This is a public hearing that will allow open comment from people in that district. If residents from that district do not want dispensaries, they will put pressure on their Councilmember, who in turn may put pressure on the hearing officer to deny the permit. If the permit is denied, the applicant may file an appeal, which will be heard by the local planning commission. Unfortunately, the local planning commission may very well succumb to the same pressure as the hearing officer and deny the permit. If this is the case, the applicant would have minimal recourse, as their avenues for appeal have been exhausted.

In the end, this ordinance does little to provide any access to medical marijuana for those who need it. Even if a handful of permits get granted, the majority of San Diego residents will have to travel unreasonable distances in order to obtain their medicine. It appears that the San Diego City Council did not learn its lesson after the last restrictive ordinance was successfully overturned via the referendum process in 2011. Instead, it decided to propose the same ordinance with additional restrictions. Knowing the San Diego medical marijuana community, We have a strong feeling that this ordinance will never see the books. There is already talk of another referendum.

Michael E. Cindrich
Law Offices of Michael E. Cindrich APC
San Diego Norml

Craig Beresh
San Diego Norml
California Cannabis Coalition

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