The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to ban all marijuana businesses in unincorporated county areas.
The ban includes all medical and non-medical marijuana dispensaries and all commercial cultivation. State law allows limited cultivation of marijuana for personal use, both medical and recreational.
Three medical marijuana dispensaries — near El Cajon and in Ramona and Valley Center — currently operate in unincorporated areas. They will be allowed to stay open for five years, then be forced to close.
Another two dispensaries that have obtained licenses from the county but have not yet opened will also be allowed to operate for the next five years. Six other dispensaries in earlier stages of the permitting process will not be allowed to open.
"I think it's really important to remember that marijuana of any kind is illegal under federal law," Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. "There have been comments made by the new administration in Washington that signs may point to action being taken in the near future to support federal law."
The vote was 3-2, with Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts voting no.
"We ought to grow it, and we ought to have facilities conveniently located throughout the county including my neighborhood and your neighborhood and everybody else's neighborhood, that is in a very controlled way, can provide for the sale," Roberts said. "We don't want kids to have it, there's no question about that."
Supervisor Cox noted that county voters have shown support for access to legal marijuana, and predicted a signature-gathering campaign would place a referendum on a future ballot overturning the ban. Such a referendum would be voted on countywide, even though the land covered by the ban is limited to unincorporated areas.
"I think you're going to find that we will have basically abdicated our ability as a board of supervisors to regulate, certainly, the use of medicinal marijuana," he said.
Dozens of opponents and proponents of the ban signed up to address the board during a hearing that lasted about three hours. Some opponents of the ban pointed out that Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California, passed San Diego County voters by a 14-point margin.
"Here we find ourselves facing the government authority who believes they know what's best for us, the majority, and do whatever is necessary to prove it," Steve Lake said. "Ironically, it's the same system of majority rules that has allowed for all of you to be elected into office."
Patricia Riggs of the Dehesa Valley Community Council urged the board to approve the marijuana ban.
"We have enjoyed small-town living in a very caring community," Riggs said. "It has taken decades to educate the public about the unhealthy effects of smoking. Now we have the ugly head of marijuana rising up."
The board was presented with a variety of zoning options before the ban was suggested by newly sworn-in Supervisor Kristin Gaspar in January. Gaspar said her office received a lot of feedback from the community after she proposed the ban, including several inappropriate comments.
"Communicating messages that 'Supervisor Gaspar should be shot' for my opinion on this matter, that I am an 'unfit mother' and another example being that I 'want to send cancer patients to jail' are just not reasonable comments," she said. "This isn't a moral issue for me. What is at hand here is really a decision on can I manage the unintended consequences?"