Pro-cannabis group sues city of San Diego arguing new laws cause pollution


As we predicted when we reported on San Diego’s restrictive new medical marijuana ordinance that was passed back in February of this year, pro-cannabis advocates in the city filed a lawsuit late last week to attempt to stop the new proposal in its tracks.
Earlier in the month of February, Toke of the Town reported that a California judge in Kern County had ruled in favor of cannabis activists who argued that a recently approved and highly restrictive ordinance had created a de facto ban on storefront medical marijuana dispensaries in the region.
Those activists then took it a step further, citing the California Environmental Quality Act, arguing that the new ordinance was literally making people drive too far to get their weed, in turn creating undue amounts of air pollution. Lo and behold, the judge bought it and the ban was lifted.

In that report on our site, we noted that due to very similar circumstances, the Kern County ruling could set a precedent for a city like San Diego, who was just about to pass its own ordinance, the one now in dispute.
Sure enough, Courthouse News Service reported on Friday that in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court last week by Los Angeles based civil rights group, Union of Medical Marijuana Patients Inc. (UMMP), the California Environmental Quality Act is once again being brought up as evidence against the prohibition of store front medical marijuana dispensaries – this time in America’s Finest City.
The proposed new ordinance would only allow less than 40 store fronts to serve a city and county with a population of over 3.177 million people. The county itself will get zero collectives, and of the 9 districts laid out in city limits, at least three of them will not get store front access to the medication either.
Setting aside the exorbitant and recurring fees and back ground checks that will be required of the 30 or so new shop owners who make the cut, the zoning restrictions mandated by the new ordinance create so many buffers between residential areas, schools, parks, churches, and other dispensaries, that some estimates say that less than 1% of 1% of San Diego’s land mass lies in an eligible zone.
How many vacancies lie within those zones, and how many of those potential landlords are willing to lease to a medical marijuana dispensary? Well, then that .0001% of San Diego’s “eligible” turf gets even smaller.
The lawsuit filed last week, which also names the California Coastal Commission as a defendant, states, “By adopting the ordinance, the city committed itself to a particular approach to regulating medical marijuana – an extremely restrictive approach that, among other things, requires thousands of patients to drive across the city to obtain their medicine because cooperatives are only allowed in certain limited places in the city, which will create traffic and air pollution.”
The argument worked in Kern County, and there is no reason to believe it cannot work again in San Diego, but UMMP has added a new twist to the logic, and again, it sort of makes sense. In this latest suit, they contend that by making people drive so far to re-up their stash, it will not only create more vehicle emissions, but it will also encourage more people to just grow their own at home.
What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, UMMP argues that indoor cultivation makes up about 1/3rd of all weed growing in California, so some 26,000+ homes may potentially be converted into commercial pot growing operations, capable of producing nearly 20,000 pounds of high grade herb each year.
Not sure where they got their math, or their grower, but they say that indoor marijuana cultivation already accounts for 9% of household electricity use in the state, and 3% of overall use. This, they claim, is the equivalent of an additional one million cars on the roads. As such, they have asked the court to halt the ordinance process in San Diego until the city can prove that the new laws will comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, represented by the Channel Law Group, needs to walk a very fine line to avoid demonizing personal and/or home growing just for the sake of deflecting criticism from store front dispensaries. After 17 years without an ordinance to implement California state medical marijuana laws, the legal precedent is in place for the city of San Diego to once again fall flat on implementing anything at all. This time, however, that may not be such a bad thing.