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San Diego City Council Approves Regulations For Marijuana Businesses

Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary, April 20, 2016.
Associated Press
Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary, April 20, 2016.
San Diego City Council Approves Regulations For Marijuana Businesses
San Diego City Council Approves Regulations For Marijuana Businesses GUEST: Chris Ward, councilman, San Diego district 3

Sending a City Council has decided that regulating cultivation, testing and distribution of marijuana is a better way to go than trying to ban it. On a 6- 3 vote yesterday, the Council bypassed two more restrictive proposals by city staff, proposals that would assert live -- severely limited the business in San Diego city and approved a measure to open the door from a local initiative to produce and distribute cannabis. Our of the City Councilman Chris Ward, one of the six people who approved the measure. Thanks for joining us.Thank you for having me.There were two options on the table yesterday, to ban everything but testing facilities or to allow cultivation, distribution and manufacturing but cap those businesses at two per district. He proposed a different option to up to 40, nonretail cannabis businesses across the city. Why did you feel that was a better solution?Sure. We heard a lot of testimony yesterday that certainly had shared their concerns that have been long-standing for some members of the community, about the legalization of marijuana. That question was decided by voters under proposition 64. Over 60% city voters voted for proposition 64. That sent a strong signal about what their interests are and how they want to move forward on land-use questions. Next, in January, we started to work on some of the regulations around retail cells. The question was decided. Yesterday's action around other elements of the supply chain. As you mentioned cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and testing. For me, I thought it was important we keep those functions close to points of sale so we are not tracking in large amounts of product from far away and also in control of our own supply-chain here in San Diego city.Given these marijuana supply-chain businesses will only be allowed in industrial areas, away from homes and schools, do you expect may be some council districts will have a larger concentration of these businesses than others?That's a really good point. One of the challenges we have all of our land-use types are not equitably to share it across the city. We have areas where industrial zones are more prevalent than other council districts. It led me too give an argument having a cap by Council District was a bit arbitrary and council district lines change over the decades as we go through redistricting. That could then play some businesses that have been 61 operating out of compliance decade after decade. About this was a better approach from the citywide perspective which is why I proposed the citywide cap.San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman raise public safety issues. She said legal dispensaries of call the police 272 times four incidents ranging from burglaries, robberies, shootings. Here is more what she said yesterday.In addition there have been 15 armed and strong-arm robberies of delivery service drivers, including those from legal dispensaries. If you vote for option 2 there could be as many as 54 marijuana facilities allowed to operate in our city, which would greatly multiply these radio calls. I know some of you, if not all of you are probably focusing on the revenue to be made from Texas, but at what cost?How do you respond to public safety concerns Chief Zimmerman raised.Chief Zimmerman is doing her best to make sure her perspectives are thought through. We do recognize those. I also had the opportunity to analyze public safety reports from police chiefs another law enforcement organizations from Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, that have legalized the creation of marijuana in effect for over two years. The data showing that on almost any metric a public safety or public health, be it burglaries are driving under the influence or youth, there is no discernible change, pre-or post legalization and commercialization of these factors. That was a bit of a surprise statistic she gave to us yesterday. It wasn't really backed up with any information presented to council. In the totality of all law enforcement data I have available to guide my decision, I believe we are able to move forward on this appropriately while protecting public safety.Chief Zimmerman did mention money. How much is in it for San Diego if this takes off?I think we have heard and the millions. That is general fund dollars we could be using to help grow and retain many law enforcement officers themselves. We are challenged with the department budget. We certainly look for this as an opportunity for revenue. Voters approved measure N last year, that will be able to tax the sales and product. I think that will only serve to help the San Diego community.Do you have any estimates of what it might be worth to the City of San Diego?Not in front of me but I know they are available out there. It would certainly, conservatively projected to be, a significant number. 5million San Diegan million to start comes to mind but could be higher than that.The city is not done setting roles for marijuana businesses. What is council expected to take up in the coming months?We have a strong request by councilmember Alvarez to address odor control and I share the concern. I committed to try to get that done to the end of calendar year to make sure that is part of the framework for these production facilities. We had conversation not ready to go around delivery services, around other elements the mayor that we were not for conversation yesterday but I suspect this is the evolving issue for San Diego and California we continue to progress on perfecting marijuana law. We will address those in time.Other cities in San Diego County, 18 cities in the county, no doubt watching what you are deciding. Do you think yesterday's vote will influence other councils around the county?Potentially but I predict most of those mayors and councilmembers are pretty strongly founded in their own personal belief on the topic. We saw [ Indiscernible ] reject similar proposals. I would argue the stands to benefit the City of San Diego if we have others in the county coming to the City of San Diego to use our lawful facilities. We stand to gain the revenue from the. I think it's going to be a boon to the city of San Diego.Thank you so much for joining me.Thank you, Alison.

A package of regulations for marijuana-related businesses in San Diego was approved by the City Council Monday evening.

The rules that will go into effect after a 6-3 vote do not involve retail dispensaries, but the "supply chain" establishments that handle cultivation, manufacturing and testing. Separate regulations for the 11 legal dispensaries in San Diego are already in effect.

The council declined to enact a tougher option that would have prohibited anything beyond the testing of marijuana and related products in laboratories in industrial zones and commercial zones that prohibit residential uses.

RELATED: Seed To Sale: How Will San Diego Treat The Cannabis ‘Supply Chain?’

The approved regulations allow testing plus cultivation, distribution and production of marijuana and related products if the business operator obtains a conditional use permit. The activities would be allowed in light and heavy industrial zones.

That option also originally limited such facilities to a maximum of two per council district, but an amendment proposed by Councilman Chris Ward expanded the cap to a total of 40 citywide.

The rules are in response to voter approval of Proposition 64 in the November election to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

"I liken this discussion where we're going on cannabis to our own craft beer industry," Ward said. "Similar issues existed then and exist today with land use constraints and the manufacturing and distribution activity concentrated in certain districts."

"Would we tell Stone Brewery that we wanted them to actually manufacture everything in Riverside County and truck it down? Would we tell Ballast Point they can only grow their hops up in Humboldt?"

While San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman and other opponents expressed concern about the impact on crime, Ward said he was confident there would be no detrimental impact on public safety.

However, Zimmerman said the legal dispensaries have called police for 272 incidents ranging from burglaries and robberies to shootings.

Public speakers on both sides offered statistics supporting their views on Colorado's experience with legalized marijuana, from drug-related DUIs to health impacts on youth.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who voted against the regulations, said it was interesting that everyone who spoke out for easier regulations had a financial interest in the marijuana industry.

RELATED: Councilman Chris Cate Releases Proposed Marijuana Regulations For San Diego

Mothers, people who talk to users, a mental health and substance abuse professional spoke out on behalf of tougher restrictions, she said.

"We were elected, if nothing else, to oversee public safety, and I think we're just absolutely going down the wrong road," Zapf said.

Councilman Chris Cate added amendments that will require a sign to be posted where the public can obtain contact information for an operator or manager of the business, for litter and graffiti to be removed immediately and for employees convicted of crimes of moral turpitude to be reported immediately to the city.

Cate proposed a longer series of regulations for non-retail marijuana businesses last month. Those will be considered at a later time.

According to the City Attorney's Office, marijuana businesses will need to comply with the new regulations within one year or cease operations.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who voted with the majority, gave the operators of such establishments a dose of reality when she said the regulations will evolve over time. A long series of rules proposed by Cate last month will be considered by the council in the coming months.

Separate issues over labor and marijuana delivery services will also be discussed in the future.