Should City Regulate Medical Marijuana Edibles, Concentrates?
Thursday, April 17, 2014
San Diego City Council members have called for a study on how, or whether, to regulate medical marijuana that comes in edible or concentrated forms.
The council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee met Wednesday and looked into a series of proposed amendments to the municipal code, brought about by recent action that will soon allow dispensaries to operate legally in San Diego.
Committee Chairwoman Marti Emerald said she wanted the changes to go through only if they allowed dried plant material but not edibles or oils unless there was some way to certify them as safe. The city, county and state don't have systems to certify medical marijuana, she said.
"Because the city cannot determine the safety of marijuana concentrates and edibles, as a public policy-maker I feel compelled to err on the side of caution," Emerald said.
However, council members Myrtle Cole and Ed Harris said the issue should be studied by city staff. Harris said a city ban could "force this material to be produced in someone's garage or some other way that is not as safe."
Some medical marijuana advocates who spoke during about an hour and a half of public testimony said it's often the sickest people who consume the edible or concentrated forms.
The City Council gave final approval last month to medical marijuana land-use regulations that will allow dispensaries to operate legally, 18 years after state voters passed the Compassionate Use Act.
A law on medical marijuana's public safety issues was enacted three years ago, but it was put on hold after a previous zoning ordinance was repealed.
With the replacement zoning law set to take effect next week, the public safety statutes will also be activated. Emerald said collective operators should be warned that the public safety regulations are likely to be amended later this year.
The public safety side of the regulations cover things like the amount of marijuana that can be provided to a customer, the number of plants a patient can possess, permit fees and packaging.
Emerald also asked staff to look into whether the city could require warning labels and potency levels to be placed on marijuana packages; inspect for pesticides, mold, mildew or other contaminants and make the results available to consumers; revoke permits for noncompliance; make delivery drivers carry documentation and travel straight from a dispensary to a customer; and conduct background checks of permit-holders for violent felonies.
The staff is due to report back July 16.
The land-use ordinance calls for dispensary operators to get a conditional use permit from the city, which will be good for five years, and an annual public safety permit from the San Diego Police Department.
Collectives may not be within 1,000 feet of public parks, churches, child care centers, playgrounds, residential care facilities, schools and other dispensaries, and not be within 100 feet of residential zones. Dispensaries also are barred from having on-site medical professionals – a law intended to prevent such businesses from becoming "one-stop shops."
According to the mayor's office, the city will start accepting applications for conditional use permits on April 24. Until the permits are processed and approved, none of the collectives operating in San Diego are doing so legally.
The mayor's office said neighborhood code compliance officers are investigating complaints lodged against 57 dispensaries. Harris said around 20 are operating in his district, which includes Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Point Loma.