SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to amend its medical marijuana regulations, including imposing more than $11,000 in annual fees on dispensaries.
San Diego County Assistant Sheriff Ed Prendergast told the board the charge of $11,017 per dispensary was proposed based on a fee study and that it reflects the costs incurred by the Sheriff's Department for investigations, issuing of permits and compliance checks.
The fee will be comparable to the $11,443 charged annually to dispensaries in San Francisco and $8,539 charged to those in Los Angeles, he said.
The amendments also provide for fingerprinting operators who apply for licensing and clarifying some zoning provisions. Regulations approved last year include restricting dispensaries to industrial zones at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, parks and other specified areas. Today's vote clarified that the buffer extends across jurisdictions.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob said the decision today was "simply to amend an ordinance we did adopt," but that members of the public would still likely oppose the board's action.
"First we were criticized for not having an ordinance, now we're being criticized for having an ordinance," she said. "Some people want an outright ban, while some want more flexibility. In the end, today probably no one's going to be happy with what we end up doing."
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said the regulations are an attempt to "get something done that would work for people who need medical marijuana, not recreational intoxication."
"What we need to do is be sure we're following the law and protecting the residents that need protection, and I believe that is what we're doing here," she said.
Supervisor Ron Roberts said he acknowledged the need for medical marijuana, but that the need was being abused.
"I have too many friends going through illnesses where this is a part of their therapy to say we don't need medical marijuana," he said. "But this has moved from what should be a medical issue into a law enforcement issue and I think that's unfortunate."
Roberts said while the fees "appear to be high, perhaps that's the price we're paying to create a system that is completely outside the realm of medical treatment.
Members of the public spoke both for and against the amendments, including Barbara Gordon, who runs a youth mentoring organization in unincorporated San Diego County and said she supported the changes.
"Because marijuana affects the brain, the use of marijuana definitely has a negative effect," she said. "It can cap a young person's potential in life."
Rudy Reyes, a medical marijuana activist, told the board, "you're using your own prejudices and own issues to enforce these laws."
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