A group of patient advocates sued the City of San Diego in early May, seeking to stop an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients Inc. filed the suit in Superior Court, alleging the regulations violate patient rights and the California Environmental Quality Act. This is the second time activists have sued to block the San Diego City Council from regulating dispensaries.
As before, this effort could end badly, with another total blackout on pot shops. That was the result of the last such lawsuit.
The City Council adopted the ordinance in March. It limits the number and location of dispensaries across the city, and requires 5-year conditional use permits and 1-year public safety permits.
The vote came after several years of chaos surrounding dispensaries. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders cracked down on them during his time in office. The City Council enacted an ordinance allowing the shops with tight restrictions.
But activists sued and managed to overturn that ordinance. With no regulations in place, the city reverted to a total ban and resumed the crackdowns.
When Sanders stepped down in 2012, he was replaced by Bob Filner, a staunch supporter of MMJ. Filner ordered city officials to stop enforcing the dispensary ban. But his policy was short-lived. Filner was forced to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal.
As soon as he was gone, the blackout resumed. Finally, the City Council adopted the new regulations in March.
The patient advocates allege in their suit that the restrictions imposed by the council will limit patients to 30 dispensaries, many of them clustered in the same parts of the city. Many patients will have to travel long distances to get their medicine, the group says.
A look at the map provided with the regulations “clearly shows that cooperatives will be concentrated in certain areas of the city and patients will need to travel relatively far to visit them,” the group’s legal petition says.
The activists also claim the city didn’t follow the rules of the California Environmental Quality Act when they adopted the dispensary ordinance.
The lawsuit wasn’t welcome news everywhere in the MMJ community. Similar tactics have had disastrous consequences in the past, both in San Diego and elsewhere. Victory is often worse than defeat.
Some medical marijuana groups said they were happy to work within the city’s new rules, even if they are restrictive.
“San Diego’s medical marijuana providers and patients are eager to see permitted cooperatives operating lawfully in the city, and while it’s true the new ordinance is highly restrictive, this attempted end-run around our City Council through the courts will do nothing to improve access,” said a statement by the Alliance for Responsible Medical Access.