City approves marijuana dispensary in Pacific Beach
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 06/04/15 - 09:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite overriding opposition from Pacific Beach Planning Group, the city Planning Commission last week voted 4-0 to approve a medical marijuana dispensary in a hard-to-access location at 4645 DeSoto St.

PBPG had previously voted 12-5-2 to deny a conditional use permit (CUP) for the proposed dispensary in a 2,470-square-foot building.

The owner of a storage lot near the now-approved dispensary had implored the advisory group to deny approving it because an easement through her property would be necessary to access it. An argument was made that the area surrounding the proposed DeSoto dispensary was never intended for higher traffic volumes and would cause severe disruption to traffic and circulation.

Reacting to the marijuana dispensary's approval, PBPG member Scott Chipman, an outspoken opponent of medical-marijuana dispensaries and spokesman for a citizens group known as San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, characterized the opening (and closing) of pot shops in San Diego as “the irresponsible permitting of retail drug dealers by the city of San Diego.

“The only difference between the operation of the newly permitted pot shops and those that have been operating without permits for the last three years is where they are located in industrial zones only,” he said.

Chapman noted the marijuana “medical” recommendation process is “fraught with fraud with many and likely most recommendations being made with no doctor examinations.”

Chapman contended that, unlike “real” medicines, “there is no prescribed frequency of use, no duration of use, no doctor follow-up visits, no direct science-based correlation between the marijuana being recommended and the ailment that the marijuana is supposedly treating.”

“This is not the practice of medicine but rather the sale of the equivalent of 'snake oil,'” continued Chapman. “The difference is that when snake oil was being sold the buyers were being fooled. The great majority of today’s pot smokers are not being fooled into thinking they are treating serious maladies. They are simply using the city’s system to access recreational marijuana.”

Proponents of medical marijuana argue there are demonstrated therapeutic benefits for users for numerous maladies including glaucoma and some cancers. Supporters point out medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. They also note a growing trend nationwide in leniency toward dispensaries and marijuana users. According to Wikipedia, as of April 2015, 23 states and Washington, D.C. Have legalized cannabis for medical use, with seven more states having pending legislation to legalize it. Four states — Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington — have passed ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana use since 2012.

The approved Pacific Beach medical marijuana dispensary brings the number of legal and city-approved dispensaries now to five. The first dispensary approved by the city opened in March in Otay Mesa.

Three other approved dispensaries, one in the Midway District at 3452  Hancock St., are expected to open this summer.

More than a year ago the city approved a new ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries restricting them to industrial zones, keeping them apart from one another and from youth-oriented facilities like schools, parks, churches, etc. The Council also voted to restrict the number of dispensaries allowed in any of the city's nine Council districts to four. Some of those districts, however, do not have zoning which would allow even one legal dispensary.

Early estimates were that there would ultimately be about 20 legal medical marijuana dispensaries once the city's vetting and approval process was complete. That figure is now more likely to be closer to a dozen.

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