SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Council's decision to draft new medical marijuana regulations based on a rescinded 2011 ordinance doesn't mean the eventual law will overly restrict patients' access to the drug, two of San Diego's top elected officials said Tuesday.
Medical marijuana advocates found the law from two years ago too restrictive and collected enough petition signatures to force it to be rescinded by the council. The result was that all dispensaries returned to being illegal, and more than 100 were shut down.
Mayor Bob Filner proposed new regulations at Monday's council meeting with the aim of restoring legal status to dispensaries, giving patients access to the drug.
After listening to three hours of public comment, council members approved Councilwoman Marti Emerald's suggestion that the City Attorney's Office draft a new ordinance, using the 2011 law as "a template."
The eventual regulations would have to incorporate certain revisions and redefinitions, she said.
On Tuesday, Filner told City News Service he "was disappointed" with the result. He said he also based his proposals on the old law.
"We'll see what they come up with," Filner said. "They're going to start with it, and make changes. Hopefully, they'll come to the same conclusions I did."
He said he strengthened provisions allowing access and protecting neighborhoods.
Council President Todd Gloria said he expects changes from the 2011 ordinance that would keep it from being too restrictive.
Even if only a few dispensaries are allowed to begin with, their operators would have a chance to prove to the community that they aren't nuisances, which would allow the council to amend the law to allow more of them, Gloria said. The alternative that medical marijuana advocates have to consider is not having any legal dispensaries at all, he said.
He said he hopes the council will be able to consider a new ordinance within "a handful of months."
The regulations passed in 2011 confined dispensaries to light industrial and some commercial zones in the city, at least 600 feet from residences, schools, libraries and other sensitive areas. Operators were required to get a conditional use permit, which would have taken thousands of dollars and as long as two years to obtain.
Opponents called the regulations a de-facto ban on marijuana collectives, which are allowed under state law by Proposition 215 that was approved by voters 16 years ago.
After a petition drive, advocates turned in enough signatures to force the council to rescind the law or put it to a public vote. The council, not wanting to pay for a special election while fending off a budget deficit, overturned the ordinance.
When Filner became mayor, he made allowing access to medical marijuana a top priority. The Police and Neighborhood Code Compliance departments haven't referred any cases against collectives to prosecutors for several months, according to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.