A proposal to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in large areas of San Diego was sent back to the drawing board, but opponents are still planning to fight efforts to open the door to pot clinics in the city.
Mayor Bob Filner proposed a medical pot ordinance this spring that would have permitted dispensaries in several zones around the city. This would have opened the possibility of dispensaries operating near at least two schools.
It also would have opened the door to pot shops in small neighborhood shopping malls where teenagers congregate.
Opponents of the idea, including the Del Mar Union School District board, were prepared to weigh in. The City Council rejected the idea, however, and sent it back for redrafting. Council members ordered city staff to write an ordinance requiring that dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet from schools and other “sensitive uses,” as well as 100 feet from residences.
The change in course led some opponents of Filner’s plan to back off for the time being. The Del Mar school board voted in late June to delay a resolution expressing concern with the proposed ordinance. Board members decided to hold off until the new ordinance is presented.
The maneuverings in San Diego are part of a drastic redrawing of the map for dispensaries in California. The state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that cities and other municipalities may use zoning regulations to ban otherwise legal dispensaries – something the vast majority of local governments have done.
In some other regions, such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area, cities are instituting new regulatory schemes. That’s the case in San Diego, the only one of 18 cities in San Diego County that has not outright banned pot stores.
Filner’s proposal would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries in two zoning areas, community commercial and industrial. Del Mar was not the only group to oppose the placement of pot shops in community areas – local community planning groups have filed notice that they oppose any approval in neighborhood community zones.
Although the locations closest to schools were taken off the table when the City Council sent the ordinance back for revision, the school board is still concerned about dispensaries around schools and popular retail centers.
The City Council is not expected to reconsider the ordinance for several months.
This is not the first time San Diego has dealt with the dispensary issue. The council enacted a zoning ordinance to make room for clinics in 2011, but marijuana advocates found it too restrictive, and it was repealed.
The city has been struggling with the issue ever since. In the meantime, the city has gone on a rampage, closing hundreds of pot shops together with federal law enforcement, against Filner’s objections.
There is a split between Filner, a medical marijuana advocate, and members of the council who side with the feds. The morning after one dispensary owner spoke in support of Filner at a council meeting, his shop was raided by local and federal law enforcement.
New dispensaries have apparently opened in recent weeks, assisted in part by Filner’s refusal to enforce city regulations against them. But it remains to be seen whether he can keep his police department at bay.