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Marijuana Dispensaries in Unincorporated Areas Placed on 45-Day Hold

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas so staff can develop land-use regulations.

The ban on the dispensaries takes effect immediately as an "urgency ordinance" and can be renewed for a total of 22 months.

Supporters of medical marijuana have long accused the county of San Diego of foot-dragging in implementing the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters 13 years ago.

Rudy Reyes, who suffered severe burns while running through flames in the 2003 Cedar Fire, asked the supervisors why he had to go all the way from his residence near the Barona Indian Reservation to Hillcrest to receive the marijuana he needs.

"This in my opinion is a farce," said Reyes, who noted that dispensaries that sell the drug for a profit are already banned.

Other opponents of today's action told the supervisors they were being denied "safe access" to their medication.

Supporters of the moratorium said Proposition 215 is being undermined by people smoking pot just to get high and others seeking to profit by opening "marijuana stores."

Marilyn Wilkinson of Spring Valley said a dispensary opened recently in a strip mall on Kenwood Drive, next to a liquor store and near a school.

"This is not OK," Wilkinson said.

Board President Dianne Jacob said the county has been inundated by requests for clear regulations for providers of medical marijuana. She also said the U.S. Justice Department has reported increased crime near dispensaries.

"I believe it's prudent to keep these negative impacts as far from families and children as possible," Jacob said.

Supervisor Ron Roberts, who said he recognizes the value of medical marijuana, called the zoning problem a result of "poor drafting" of the Compassionate Use Act. He said he hoped the county wasn't trying to delay implementation of the law.

"It needs to be done right," Roberts said. "We've very behind where we need to be."

Jacob directed staff to bring possible zoning regulations to the board in September, along with a timeline for how long an ordinance would take to be fully developed.

Eric Gibson, the county's director of planning and land use, said it was almost certain he would ask for an extension of the moratorium next month.

Similar moratoriums are already in place in Chula Vista and National City.

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