Perhaps most notably, the vote also capped the number of dispensaries allowed to set up shop and operate in any one of the nine City Council districts to a maximum of four — a total of 30 citywide.
Several of the council districts, like interim Mayor Todd Gloria’s District 3, have no existing zonings that would meet the new requirements for dispensaries to operate.
Other communities, however, like Kearny Mesa and Otay Mesa, contain numerous parcels where dispensaries could be located.
District 5 City Councilman Mark Kersey, who cast the dissenting vote, said he could not vote for the ordinance because his constituents opposed it and because federal law continues to forbid possession and sale of marijuana, despite what California voters approved a few years ago.
The City Council action amends the land-development code and the local coastal program to add medical marijuana consumer cooperatives as a new, separately regulated land use.
It’s been 17 years since California’s Compassionate Use Act was approved by state voters legitimizing medical marijuana use.
Gloria said the new medical marijuana ordinance “is a balance providing a framework protecting neighborhoods while giving safe access to those (patients) that deserve it.”
District 4 City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said she supported the establishment of zoning that ensures dispensaries will be enforceable, adding she expected a “zero-tolerance policy” for ordinance violators.
District 6 City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she expected the city to realize “full cost recovery” from the ordinance. Zapf, who made the motion to cap the number of dispensaries allowed in each of the council districts, noted “that will spread it evenly.”
District 8 Councilman David Alvarez expressed concern that the new ordinance was overly restrictive adding, “there are needs for access for people throughout this entire city.”
Councilmembers took public input for roughly two hours as scores of people testified for and against the new marijuana zoning ordinance, including several beach residents.
Scott Chipman of Pacific Beach claimed public use of marijuana by adults and teens has “skyrocketed” since California voter approval of the legislation permitting medical marijuana.
Chipman spoke of dispensaries changing names and ownership to try and conceal the fact they’re primarily serving recreational users of the drug — not medical patients, as proponents claim.
“Marijuana use is dangerous, it’s unhealthy physically and mentally,” Chipman said. “Hiding dispensaries away in industrial areas is admitting they’re harmful.”
The reaction from medical marijuana proponents was mixed.
“We are glad that the San Diego City Council has decided to allow regulated access to medical marijuana. However, we are very disappointed with the extreme restrictions contained in this ordinance,” said James Slatic, executive board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
"That said," continued James, "this ordinance does represent an opportunity to show the leadership of the city, as well as our detractors, that well-regulated dispensaries with responsible operators can be positive members of the communities while serving the needs of patients and caregivers."