Planning Commission sends pot shop regulations to City Council - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Planning Commission sends pot shop regulations to City Council

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to send a package of land-use regulations of marijuana dispensaries in San Diego to the City Council for final approval.

Dispensaries would be limited to industrial zones and operators would have to apply for a conditional use permit. Authorities do not want pot shops within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, youth facilities, churches, parks or other dispensaries.

Dispensary operators would also have to prove their nonprofit status and conform to restrictions on signage, security, lighting and hours of operation.

One study of the regulations estimated that collectives would be allowed to operate in 97 locations throughout the city.

"Ninety-seven still seems overly restrictive to me," said commission Chairman Eric Naslund, who cast one of the dissenting votes.

Naslund said the result would be "an outright ban" since a site might not actually be available for a dispensary to use - it could already be leased by another business or the owner might not agree to rent their space.

"It's incumbent on us to provide fair and humane treatment, where possible" for medical marijuana patients, based on state law, Naslund said.

There are an estimated 180 medical marijuana shops operating in San Diego - illegally, according to the city. Many operators of marijuana dispensaries have been cited for code violations by the City Attorney's Office.

About two hours worth of public speakers on the topic split roughly down the middle on whether the regulations are too restrictive or don't go far enough.

Caroline Short, of La Jolla, said the proliferation of the dispensaries and the people loitering near them have made San Diego a different kind of place.

"We all know they're used mainly by recreational users," Short said.

"It's changed the fabric of our city."

Tony Silvia said opposition to the collectives is "NIMBYism."

If crime was such a problem around marijuana shops, then the police would be speaking out at the meeting, and they weren't, Silvia said.

Public safety issues surrounding the outlets are being handled separately.

With their vote, the commissioners amended the recommendation by planning staff by adding colleges and universities to the 1,000-foot exclusion distance; allowing the City Council to reduce the buffer to residential neighborhoods to 600 feet; and giving the collectives a six-month grace period to meet the new regulations.

Naslund asked staff to conduct a more detailed study of the number of locations that would be available to collectives before the regulations go to the City Council for final approval.

This is an update. The previous story is below.

SAN DIEGO (CNS/News 8) - A group of anti-drug activists and parents Wednesday called on the San Diego Planning Commission to adopt tougher regulations for medical marijuana outlets.

The commission is set to discuss the issue Thursday, though the city and the county already have regulatory ordinances in place.

"This is the most serious safety issue the city is facing" said Scott Chipman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods.

"Most people are sympathetic to the seriously ill who get relief from marijuana," said Marcie Beckett, a mother of two from Pacific Beach, where dispensaries are common.

Beckett said the concept of providing of medical marijuana to sick people "has been hijacked by profiteers."

Activists who want to see more regulations said 180 dispensaries operate illegally in the city of San Diego, mostly in the beach areas, North Park and Normal Heights.

They said at least nine holdups have occurred at pot shops in the past six months.

But advocates for medical marijuana have a different take.

"It is Prohibitionist scare tactics," Eugene Davidovich of Americans for Safe Access told News 8. "The majority of San Diegans want dispensaries, as well as patients who need this medicine to have access in their city."

The Planning Commission is expected to further define what constitutes a medical marijuana dispensary and to establish a permitting process.

Dispensaries would be limited to industrial and certain community commercial zones, and operators would have to apply for a conditional use permit. Authorities do not want pot shops within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, youth facilities, churches, parks or other dispensaries.

Dispensary operators would also have to prove their nonprofit status and conform to restrictions on signage, security, lighting and hours of operation.

Scott Chipman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods said all 180 shops that are operating illegally should be closed until they get permits.

Dispensary operarors argue that they operate within the law, and that ultra-restrictive zoning laws force them into unsafe areas.

"Marijuana is a medicine: it has been for centuries," Davidovich added, "and over the last fourteen years Californians have recognized that."

Any measures approved by the Planning Commission would need final approval from the City Council before being codified.

 

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