|Graphic: Fox 5 San Diego|
San Diego County has adopted restrictive rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, following a statewide trend of regulating the proliferating pot shops.
The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday ruled that dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county must be located at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds and churches. Officials say that leaves only 16 available sites.
The dispensaries also must be licensed — at a cost of up to $20,000 each — and must undergo inspections, have security measures in place and keep precise records of transactions, according to the newly adopted ordinance.
The new regulations include limiting dispensaries to industrial zones, requiring a licensed, armed guard; video monitoring; precise records of all transactions, including the names and addresses of marijuana suppliers; and no selling of any marijuana-laced food or drink products, which places a hardship on many patients who prefer not to smoke.
Supervisor Ron Roberts cast the lone vote against the measure, saying a last-minute amendment from Supervisor Dianne Jacob that pared the list of locations in unincorporated areas from 25 to as few as 15 was too restrictive, reports Mark Walker at North County Times.
“I am concerned that we are reducing the number of sites down to next to none,” said Roberts, who has often been at odds with the other supervisors in their battle against medical marijuana. “I think we’re violating the spirit of the law.”
Many of the more than 100 people who packed the supervisors’ room at the County Administration Center in downtown San Diego seemed to agree. Patients and medical marijuana advocates turned out in force for the latest round in the county’s years-long struggle to avoid recognizing California’s medical marijuana law.
|Eugene Davidovich, Americans for Safe Access: “What they have done is eradicate medical marijuana anywhere in the county”|
Eugene Davidovich, spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, which claims a membership of several thousand, said the new regulations shut out dispensaries entirely.
“What they have done is eradicate medical marijuana anywhere in the county,” Davidovich said after the meeting. “It’s very disappointing. They are not helping patients.”
Three of the 16 dispensary sites are in Lakeside and three more are in Ramona, reports Matthew T. Hall at the San Diego Union-Tribune. Two each are in San Dieguito, Alpine and El Cajon. The rest are in Borrego, Campo, Julian and Spring Valley. It’s possible that some locations could hold multiple dispensaries if each complied with the zoning and distance requirements.
Critics said that the policy is too restrictive, that the sites are not practical, and that the regulations amount to an invasion of patients’ privacy. Opponents far outnumbered supporters at the Wednesday morning meeting.
As Supervisor Dianne Jacob noted, “I didn’t hear a lot of unqualified support for what’s before us today.”
The Sheriff’s Department claims proceeds from the $20,000 dispensary licensing fees will be used to pay for inspectors and assure compliance with state and county laws.
In subsequent years, they claim dispensary operators will be required to pay a lesser amount “still being determined” as an annual fee required to stay in business. (I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that fee to come down, though.)
Dispensaries have multiplied in California since voters passed an initiative in 1996 permitting marijuana use for medical reasons. The pace of new shops opening increased greatly after the Assembly clarified and expanded the medical marijuana law in 2003, and again after Obama Administration announced last year it would no longer prioritize going after patients or providers in states where medical marijuana is legal.
San Diego County supervisors sued to overturn the state’s medical marijuana law in 2006 but lost their fight to avoid issuing cannabis patient ID cards. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case last year.