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San Diego Reconsidering Dispensaries

San Diego Opens Door to Dispensaries Again

After a long absence, medical weed is returning to San Diego. But it will be coming back with tight new restrictions that may not make everyone in the MMJ community happy.

That said, many pot advocates were pleased to see the city adopt the new rules, since it was either that or nothing at all.

“This ordinance provides clear and fair rules which will result in access to medical marijuana for legitimate San Diego patients and safeguard neighborhoods from negative impacts associated with dispensaries,” said interim Mayor Todd Gloria.

Kevin Faulconer
Kevin Faulconer

The new ordinance was something of a project for Gloria, who pushed to get it passed before his successor, Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer, takes office in early March.

The City Council voted 8-1 Feb. 25 to create new zoning rules for medical pot shops. Dispensaries will be limited to commercial and industrial zones and must be at least 1,000 feet from each other and from schools, child care facilities, playgrounds, parks, libraries and churches.

Stores must be non-profit, must operate under limited business hours, and must hire security guards.

The ordinance will allow for a total of 30 dispensaries in the city, with no more than four in each of the nine City Council districts. Three of those districts have fewer than four feasible locations, so the total adds up to 30, according to the San Diego Association of Governments.

MMJ has been on a long and bumpy road in the city over the last few years. Californians adopted medical weed in 1996, but it has always been tough to get in San Diego.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, who served from 2005 to 2012, was an opponent of dispensaries and fought to close dozens of them before he left office. In 2011 the City Council passed an ordinance to regulate them so they could stay.

But MMJ activists thought the restrictions were too onerous, so they waged a successful campaign to kill the ordinance. Unfortunately, it was replaced with a total ban on pot shops.

Then came new Mayor Bob Filner, who took office in 2012. A staunch supporter of MMJ, he ordered city officials to stop enforcing the laws against dispensaries, though federal raids against them continued.

Filner proposed a new dispensary ordinance. The council rejected it and asked the city attorney to draft another one. In the meantime, the new mayor found himself snared in a major sexual harassment scandal that ultimately cost him the office and led to a criminal conviction.

Filner was replaced by Gloria, who immediately ordered the city to resume the crackdown on pot shops. The ordinance passed in February is the result of a kind of truce between MMJ proponents and conservative city leaders.


About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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