In February of this year, local pro-cannabis activists in Kern County in Southern California concocted a defense of pot dispensaries that you have to be toking on some top shelf herbs to come up with.
Their argument was that by forcing the closure or re-location of the vast majority of local medical marijuana storefronts, they would be violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by making the region’s cannabis consumers drive their pollution-spewing cars even further to get their medication.
Half-baked or not, the defense stood up in court and the de facto ban on medical marijuana in Kern County was delayed. As we reported at the time, the court’s decision set a potential landmark precedent for other counties or cities on the verge on instituting their own crackdowns on the chron. The example we used was San Diego, and sure enough, America’s Finest City has become the new proving ground.
On March 25th of this year, the San Diego City Council bullied through the first medical marijuana ordinance that the city had ever seen. Not since the inception of Prop215 in 1996, legalizing medical marijuana in the state, had the city of San Diego laid down a groundwork to allow dispensaries to operate legally.
To the dismay of tens of thousands of registered medical marijuana patients in the city and county of San Diego, however, the ordinance that the City Council put forth is incredibly restrictive, and will only allow for a maximum of 36 storefronts to service a region that had 300+ thriving pot shops prior to the crackdown in 2011.
Los Angeles-based Union for Medical Marijuana Patients then filed its Kern-County-copycat-suit in San Diego Superior Court on May 5th, hoping to halt the process.
The suit was all but ignored, and the Council’s ill-conceived ordinance was passed on for final approval from the 12-member California Coastal Commission who was all too happy to rubber stamp the restrictive new rules, and on June 11th, the ordinance essentially became the law of the land.
Pro-cannabis activists soon discovered that the true number of allowed dispensaries would be closer to 30, once all buffers, overlays, and restrictions are accounted for.
In a a case of judicial deja vu, this latest suit is once again being filed by the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients (UMMP), but names not just the city of San Diego this time, but the California Coastal Commission as well in what the Union claims is clear neglect for the CEQA.
The UMMP’s lawsuit states that the new law in San Diego will force “thousands of patients to drive across the City of San Diego to obtain their medicine because cooperatives are only allowed in certain limited places in the city, which will create traffic and air pollution”.
Besides the pollution created by potheads chasing down first-time-patient deals across town, the Union says that these laws lead to measurable increases in indoor cultivation of marijuana. In theory, if people cannot buy it easily, they’ll grow it themselves. This leads to a huge spike in the consumption of electricity, as well as soil, water, and plant material waste.
The lawsuit states that indoor cannabis cultivation accounts for 3% of all electricity use in the state of California. The carbon footprint of such a power-suck is the equivalent of the combined emissions of 1,000,000 cars cruising down the freeway.
The UMMP is accusing the California Coastal Commission of shirking its stated mission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast” by failing to “analyze the reasonably foreseeable consequences of increased indoor cultivation of medical marijuana”.
The UMMP is again asking for a full environmental assessment of the ordinance, in accordance with California Environmental Quality Act, and is demanding that the current ordinance be shelved until it is brought into compliance with the rigid requirements of the CEQA.
While officials in Kern County may not have had the bankroll to battle the lawsuit, the anti-cannabis movement in San Diego has proven to be more than willing to fight. San Diego never lacks for good weed and great weed activists, but it’s no secret that this hazy defense may be one of the last tricks they have left in their stash.