|Priorities? Opening a medical marijuana dispensary in San Diego costs more to license than opening 17 strip clubs or 27 massage parlors.|
Since You Don’t Have Enough Money — Or A Legal Spot — To Open A Medical Marijuana Dispensary In San Diego County, Maybe You Should Consider The Sex Trade Instead
In a move seen as continuing their notorious hostility to implementation of California’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters 15 years ago, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an $11,017 annual fee to open medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the county’s unincorporated areas. They also further restricted where the shops can open, resulting in a “de facto ban,” according to activists.
Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox said the fee — which, surprise, surprise, will go to the Sheriff’s Department — appeared “high,” reports Chris Nichols of the North County Times.
They’re right about that. In fact, it’s the highest annual fee charged to any Sheriff’s Department-regulated business in the county.
|San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept.|
|Assistant Sheriff Ed Prendergast: $11,000 dispensary fee is “necessary” to cover his department’s “cost”|
During Tuesday’s meeting with the board, Assistant Sheriff Ed Prendergast claimed that the $11,017 annual fee per shop was “necessary” to cover his department’s cost to process dispensary applications, inspect the shops and “respond to complaints” about them.
But, hey there entrepreneur, if you simply can’t afford to cough up (sorry) 11 grand to run a dispensary, maybe you should consider a strip club or a massage parlor instead.
The Sheriff’s Department charges only $637 to start up a strip club in unincorporated areas. A bathhouse on rural land will cost you $684, and if you want to open a country massage parlor, that’ll only be $398.
At this point, you’re not alone if you can’t help asking yourself “Why, exactly, does it cost more than 27 times as much for the Sheriff’s Department to keep tabs on a medical marijuana dispensary — which deals with ailing patients — as it does to regulate a strip club or a massage parlor?”
A sheriff’s department employee tried to put a better face on things by claiming that the less expensive fees “haven’t been updated for several years,” but the difference is still stark and embarrassing.
Assistant Sheriff Prendergast said other jurisdictions such as San Francisco and Long Beach charge dispensaries even more, roughly $11,400 and $14,000, respectively. He said Los Angeles charges its dispensaries about $8,000 a year.
“The county’s fee is both reasonable and comparable to other jurisdictions around the state,” Prendergast claimed.
Blanca Pelowitz, the sheriff’s licensing manager, claimed she “could not immediately provide” the study the Sheriff’s Department used to arrive at an annual fee of $11,017.
Pelowitz claimed the sheriff’s inspection duties at medical marijuana dispensaries are “more involved” than at massage parlors and strip bars. “It’s a lot more than (what) is done at the others,” she claimed.
Despite emotional pleas from advocates against the high fees and new restrictions, the board approved the measure, including the new fees.
Zoning restrictions in the new law eliminate potential sites for dispensaries in unincorporated areas that border a church, school, park or other nonindustrial-zoned site just across city lines.
The move even further reduces the number of potential legal sites for dispensaries in unincorporated areas of San Diego County from an estimated 15-18 sites down to 12-15 sites, according to Eric Gibson, the county’s planning chief.
Some medical marijuana advocates said the county has added a “de facto ban” on dispensaries, given that none of the legal sites is available for rent or sale.
“By eliminating that access, you’re forcing the very needy to go to the streets” to get medical marijuana, said Vey Linville of Spring Valley, rolling his oxygen machine along with him to the podium and noting that he drinks a cannabis preparation to help him breathe.
“This is a health care issue,” Linville told the Board of Supervisors. “There are desperately sick and handicapped people who need this medicine to survive.”
But Lane Triplett, a hard-charging interior designer from Bonsall, was having none of that “compassion” nonsense. She said “young people” are “getting the wrong message” about marijuana. (It’s apparently wrong in Lane’s prim little world to tell kids the truth, i.e., marijuana is medicine.)
“Let’s not make San Diego County a haven for marijuana,” she said. Umm… Lane? I think you’re about 30 or 40 years late on that one, dear. The question isn’t whether marijuana is going to be in San Diego County. The question is, are you going to make it easily available to patients in need?
The San Diego County Supervisors and county law enforcement have taken aggressive measures against dispensaries, including raids in September 2009 that shut down 14 dispensaries from San Marcos to San Diego.
Those raids were based on claims that the dispensaries acted illegally as for-profit businesses, selling to individuals outside their cooperatives. Three convictions resulted from the raids.