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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

San Diego City Council Puts Medical Marijuana To A Vote

The Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative was the last licensed medical marijuana co-op in San Diego County. It closed its doors in September 2012.

The City Council will take another stab at establishing regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego Tuesday.

The panel has addressed the issue numerous times since California's Compassionate Use Act was approved by voters more than 17 years ago.

Zoning and operating guidelines passed in 2011 were rescinded after medical marijuana advocates collected enough signatures to force council reconsideration.

The advocates considered the 2011 regulations too restrictive, but taking them off the books had the effect of making all dispensaries within city limits illegal. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said the restrictions in the plan to be considered Tuesday are even tighter.

"Cooperatives must be separated from public parks, churches, child care centers, playgrounds, residential care facilities, schools and other cooperatives by a distance of a thousand feet,'' Gloria said at a recent briefing. "Cooperatives must apply for a conditional use permit with a five-year expiration.''

The proposal also calls for a 100-foot buffer from residential zones and would prohibit having on-site medical professionals, to prevent dispensaries from becoming "one-stop shops,'' Gloria said.

He estimated that, based on digital mapping by the San Diego Association of Governments, around 30 dispensaries would be allowed in San Diego. Most would be in the major industrial zones of Kearny Mesa and Otay Mesa, but some would be in each council district in the city except his own -- which would have none.

As a city councilman, Gloria represents downtown, Hillcrest and North Park, which he said are mostly mixed-use commercial and residential neighborhoods.

He said the city's Planning Commission passed the proposed regulations, with one dissenting commissioner who thought they were too restrictive.

Medical marijuana advocates seem "more cognizant of reality'' than they were three years ago, according to the interim mayor. The City Council shot down looser restrictions proposed last year by former Mayor Bob Filner.

The proposed regulations are the result of subsequent council direction, and they went through public vetting during the fall.

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