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County Supervisors Vote To Consider Marijuana Ban

Above: Jars full of medical marijuana are seen at Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary on May 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to consider a ban on all marijuana businesses in unincorporated county areas, with plans to vote on the proposal before a moratorium expires in March.

The board met to consider a package of regulations for medical marijuana facilities in the unincorporated areas and whether to extend a moratorium on new dispensaries for an additional year, but Vice Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar instead proposed an all-out ban.

RELATED: California’s Pot Czar Discusses Marijuana Regulations

"It's our responsibility to protect what we have control over in an uncertain environment,'' Gaspar said. "At the risk of quickly becoming the most unpopular supervisor in this room, I'd like to make a motion to have staff bring back a ban ordinance for board consideration.''

After a two-hour hearing involving county staff, community groups and dozens of individuals, the motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts dissenting.

The board was presented with a variety of zoning options, including buffers with homes and schools ranging from 1,000 feet to one mile and requiring that a dispensary operator obtain a major use permit — an expensive and time-consuming process. The county Planning Commission, however, recommended that operators be required to get a less onerous minor use permit.

The options also included limiting the number of such operations in a given location — such as four per supervisorial district and two per community planning area — and extending the moratorium to Jan. 25, 2018. The current temporary prohibition on new dispensaries is due to expire on March 16.

Roberts said he believes in the therapeutic properties of medical marijuana before declaring he would vote against a ban.

"I do feel like what the planning commission has submitted to us in this case has been very thoroughly looked at, and that would be my preference,'' Roberts said.

Two medical marijuana dispensaries — near El Cajon and in Ramona — currently operate in unincorporated areas. They would be allowed to remain open for five year if the ban is enacted, before being forced to close.

The ban would include all medical and non-medical marijuana facilities, collectives, dispensaries and cultivation in the unincorporated areas.

"Marijuana of any kind is illegal under federal law,'' Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. "Somehow or another that seems to be lost in our discussion.''

On Tuesday, the city of San Diego addressed recreational marijuana, which was legalized in California with November's passage of Proposition 64. The City Council unanimously extended its moratorium on establishing recreational marijuana businesses for another 10 1/2 months, or until it can adopt regulations.

The council members are scheduled to take up regulatory proposals next week.

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