City Council discusses medical marijuana dispensaries
Published Thursday, 16-Sep-2010 in issue 1186
Medical marijuana dispensaries were debated Monday by the San Diego City Council, which voted 6-1 to direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance regulating dispensaries and making them legal with a list of qualifications and conditions.
But this isn’t a quick fix. City staff estimated that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith will return to the Council with an ordinance in mid-January, 2011.
It will be a different Council then, as Councilmember Donna Frye is termed out of office and Council President Ben Hueso is running for State Assembly.
Third District Councilmember Todd Gloria authored the motion which was seconded by Hueso. Carl DeMaio voted no and Marti Emerald was absent. Voting in favor were Sherri Lightner, Tony Young, Kevin Faulconer, Frye, Gloria and Hueso.
Gloria said he was “appalled” that it has been 14 years since voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996 and the City is still struggling to finding a way to help medical marijuana patients receive the drug legally.
Prop. 215 approved patients’ use of medical marijuana if a physician recommends it, but the law doesn’t say how patients could receive, possess, cultivate or transport the drug. Medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up in Mission Hills, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, Pacific Beach and elsewhere, but District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said they are operating illegally.
A number of medical marijuana patients told the Council how the drug helps them. Some patients with AIDS have benefited from the drug, such as stimulating appetite and reducing nausea or pain.
A 58-year-old Vietnam veteran told the Council, “Marijuana cleared up my PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).” He added: “My nightmares are very, very short. To me, this is a life line.” He said he only gets one joint per night as recommended by his doctor.
“I do believe this is valuable medicine for (some patients),” said Gloria. “I believe in safe access.” A La Jolla doctor told the Council he visited five medical marijuana dispensaries and he found them lacking in medical care. He said one dispensary offered him free joints as part of a competitive price war with other similar businesses. “It is not a harmless drug,” said the doctor.
Some members of the Medical Marijuana Task Force spoke to the Council about their discussions on conditions for marijuana dispensaries. The Council voted to include most of their recommendations.
Any medical marijuana dispensary must be operated as a nonprofit organization and must supply proof of that, according to the list of conditions given to the City Attorney’s office. They must also operate with a conditional use permit and not in a residential area.
Dispensaries cannot be operated within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks, playgrounds and libraries. Existing dispensaries cannot be grandfathered in and must meet requirements to operate.
The City is looking for “full cost recovery” to pay for all city costs in administering dispensaries. No fee amount was specified.
Since this is a land use issue, the proposed ordinance will have to go before the Planning Commission before it is heard again by the City Council.
Faulconer told the Council the President of Point Loma Nazarene University had written a letter to the City asking that marijuana dispensaries not be located within 1,000 feet of the college. Faulconer said other colleges, including SDSU and UCSD, have also asked to be on the list under the general term of schools.
This produced dissention on the Council, with several Council Members saying they would not support adding colleges to the list. In an amendment, the Council voted 4-3 in opposition to adding colleges to the list, and it failed to pass.