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San Diego: Environmental Regulations Don’t Apply To Marijuana Dispensaries

A city staff finding that permit applications to operate legal medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego are exempt from provisions of the California Environmental Protection Act will be reviewed by the City Council on Tuesday.

Members of the public have appealed the CEQA exemptions for 11 applicants who hope to operate legal marijuana shops under regulations approved by the council early last year.

City officials are sorting through 40 applications for conditional use permits. No legal medical marijuana outlet has opened yet within city limits, while numerous shops operating illegally have been shut down.

In processing the applications, officials with the city's Development Services Department found that CEQA regulations don't apply in the case of the dispensaries, since they'll only be making minor modifications to existing buildings.

In a technicality, the appeals are only on the CEQA finding, not the conditional use permits themselves.

The affected applicants hope to operate shops at 7128 Miramar Road in Mira Mesa; 4645 De Soto St. in Pacific Beach; 3571 Pacific Highway in Middletown; in the Stockton neighborhood at 3433 Pickwick St. and 3385 Sunrise St.; and in the Midway District at 3486 Kurtz St., 3485 Noell St., 3225 Bean St., and 3421, 3430 and 3515 Hancock St.

If the City Council denies the appeals, the permit applications will go to a city hearing officer, who will decide whether to approve the projects.

If any of the appeals are granted, the Development Services Department will place all approvals on hold, reconsider the CEQA determination and prepare a new environmental document for council consideration at a later date.

Not all of the 11 applicants going through the environmental appeal are expected to eventually receive a permit.

The regulations adopted by the council limit dispensaries to four per council district — and six applicants desire locations in the Midway area. Also, dispensaries are not allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of each other.

The applicant furthest along in the lengthy permitting process is a San Diego State University professor who wants to open a shop in a strip mall near Brown Field airport in Otay Mesa. His actual permit is being appealed, and a hearing is scheduled before the city's Planning Commission later this month.

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