The crackdown has begun again in San Diego.
Now that former Mayor Bob Filner, a staunch supporter of medical cannabis, has left office in disgrace, the city has reversed course and started suing marijuana dispensaries to shut them down.
In late September, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith filed a civil complaint seeking to close the Central Wellness Collective. The move reflects a policy shift ordered by Acting Mayor Todd Gloria, who has said the city won’t tolerate dispensaries until there’s a medical marijuana ordinance in place.
“The municipal code does not permit dispensaries in any zone, and we will enforce the law to close their operation,” said Goldsmith.
Ups and Downs of San Diego’s Marijuana Policy
The medical marijuana market in San Diego has been in a state of flux during the past two mayoralties. While Filner’s predecessor, Jerry Sanders, held the office, the City Council enacted a zoning ordinance allowing dispensaries.
But pro-marijuana forces believed the ordinance was too restrictive. Facing a likely repeal of the policy by public vote, the council opted to scrap it in 2011. That meant pot shops were banned again.
Then Filner took office late last year and changed city policy again. He ordered Goldsmith to stop taking dispensaries to court and let them operate in peace. Filner proposed a new dispensary ordinance to the council, but they rejected it.
Over the summer, Filner’s administration collapsed over allegations by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment. He resigned Aug. 30.
Soon after he left, city officials announced they would return to the policy of enforcing the zoning restrictions that ban dispensaries everywhere in the city.
New Marijuana Ordinance
A new marijuana ordinance is currently being reviewed by neighborhood groups. It could come up for a council vote early next year, and it’s expected to be more conservative than Filner’s proposal.
“What I want to do is provide some certainty for the patients who need [medical marijuana] and to the neighborhoods who are afraid of it so we can tell them what the rules of the road look like,” said Gloria. “Right now we have none.”
More than a dozen dispensaries opened throughout the city during Filner’s nine-month term. The complaint against the Central Wellness Collective was the first filed by the city this year.
San Diego Is Not Alone
San Diego is only one of many communities in California struggling with whether to allow dispensaries. The state Supreme Court ruled in May that municipalities may use zoning regulations to prohibit pot shops.
Since then, dispensaries have been shuttered across the state, with hundreds of cities and counties enforcing bans. But in recent months, a small but growing number of communities, from SoCal to the Bay Area, have begun to reconsider their bans and look for ways to work with marijuana providers.