San Diego City Council finally agrees on restrictive city pot laws, 17 years after medical marijuana was legalized in CA


Be careful what you wish for. That is the lesson being realized today by pro-cannabis advocates and activists in America’s Finest City.

San Diego, California

Yesterday, on a nearly unanimous 8-1 decision, the San Diego City Council finally cast a meaningful vote on establishing an official medical marijuana business ordinance in the city, laying down a law on pot shops for the first time since the California Compassionate Use Act, commonly referred to as Prop 215, was passed nearly 18 years ago.

Critics and supporters of the new proposed ordinance fall on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to being either for, or against, marijuana, and it is that convoluted mess of competing advocacy groups, financial opportunists, and pot prohibitionists that has kept San Diego in the dark since 1996.
As we have reported here in the past, medical marijuana storefront dispensaries flourished in San Diego between 2008-2011, but did so in a wild west fashion, with no firm rules or regulations in place to either support or deter them.
In 2010, after alleged public outcry regarding the proliferation of pot shops in neighborhoods across San Diego, new proposed zoning and operating guidelines were drafted and adopted temporarily by the city council at the time. Those rules, however, were seen as too restrictive, and a last minute signature drive overturned the city’s ordinance before it could ever take root.
Those pushing the petitions at the time promised that San Diego could do better for its medical marijuana community, and the voters believed it, sweeping Democratic Congressman, and outspoken weed lover, Bob Filner into the Mayor’s office in 2012.
During his incredibly brief and embarrassing time in office, in between putting female co-workers in the “Filner Headlock“, the new Mayor drafted a much more realistic set of pot laws for the city, and proposed them to the city council, with a wave of community support behind him.

Disgraced former Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner

The council did all but tear the Mayor’s ordinance up in his face last April, most likely because they knew he was a grab-ass playing lame duck before the rest of us did, and knew they could bypass him on their way to drafting and passing another new ordinance of their own, one even more restrictive than the 2011 template they vowed to work off of.
Filner got kicked out of office in disgrace in 2013, and anti-weed City Council President, Todd Gloria, was named interim Mayor. Yesterday, he and his colleagues on the council had the last laugh, and barring a major surge in citizen action, the newly approved, ridiculously restrictive ordinance will be put in place within six months.
The new law of the land in San Diego will limit the number of dispensaries serving the entire city and county of San Diego to just 30 locations. Of the 9 political zoning districts in San Diego, a few, like Gloria’s downtown district, will not allow even one storefront to open. None of the districts will have more than 4 locations for patients to access.
In addition to limiting the number allowed, is the draconian limitations placed on site zoning and restriction buffers. Any pot shops looking to open in one of the already restricted districts must be no less than 1000 feet away from all schools, churches, daycare facilities, parks, libraries, and other storefront dispensaries. As an extra thumb in the eye, the council tossed in an additional 100-foot mandatory buffer to all residential properties as well, a move that took most of San Diego’s eligible business districts off the table.

Advocates against the plan say that this limits truly available land in San Diego to less than 1% of 1% of the total square mileage of San Diego – and that’s if you can get a landlord in one of those incredibly exclusive zones to rent to you for a fair price.
Additionally, prospective dispensary owners must now apply for a 5-year conditional use permit, as well as a recurring annual public safety permit from the San Diego Police Department – which can carry combined fees of more than $24,000.
Critics of the plan have little in common with one another. Pro-pot ordinance haters say that it spits in the face of safe access and the spirit of Prop 215, and they vow to fight its passage tooth and nail. Recent rulings in Kern County may even provide a legal precedent in their battle. Anti-pot ordinance haters don’t feel that it went far enough to restrict the stores, and do not trust the city to enforce its own rules.
The word “medical” in medical marijuana has proven to be a favorite sticking point of the hyper-conservative city council, and those they bring forth to support their de facto ban on weed in the city.
“One hundred percent of adults can walk in and get a prescription. All you have to say is ‘I’m anxious. I’m nervous. I have difficulty sleeping.’ You will get a prescription. Now if that’s what we want in San Diego and that’s what the council wants to vote for, OK. … But if we say this is for sick people let’s be realistic.”

That is according to the council’s expert, Dr. Matthew Carroll, a SoCal psychiatrist. The shrink has it all twisted, as do most opponents of medical marijuana.
If all weed did was cure anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia, all with the limited side effects we know it to carry, it would still be worth legalizing! But instead, every week a new study shows a new benefit to cannabis use. This intentionally feigned ignorance by politicians and their puppets is despicable.
The lone dissenting vote on Tuesday was cast by Councilman Mark Kersey. But before you praise him, he only voted that way out of blinding ignorance, citing federal laws that still list pot on Schedule I of Controlled Substances.
In fact, many San Diego City Councilpersons publicly cited an irrational fear of federal retribution on them personally, if they listened to the will of San Diego voters and loosened medical marijuana laws. This alone illustrates how out of touch they are on the issue.
Meanwhile, as splintered activists try to circle the wagons to attempt to block the new ordinance, as they did back in 2011, a new “advocacy” group has sprouted up in San Diego, flashing a $50,000 war chest that they vow to use to fight any attempts to block the new law.
That’s right, a political action committee, headed by a man named Bob Riegel, and staffed by many former (current?) members of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, has formed, calling itself ARMA – the Alliance for Responsible Medicinal Access.
They say they will not allow another petition driven delay to stand in the way, and have nominated themselves as the local pot police/chamber of kush commerce. ARMA says it aims to serve as a liaison between local authorities, and the shop owners themselves, and promises to keep its peers in check, or summon the proper authorities to crack down if needed.
And so, the fight continues in San Diego. If passed, the new ordinance will not be implemented any sooner than the fall, in which time Kevin Faulconer, the new full time Mayor, will take office – a man with no love in his heart for marijuana.
While the council’s proposed ordinance may be, in the grand scheme of things, a baby step in a better direction, it comes years too late, and will not solve the problems that weed loving San Diegans have been forced to deal with for years now.