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San Diego City Council Approves Sorrento Valley Marijuana Dispensary

A former credit union branch in Sorrento Valley that has been approved for a ...

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: A former credit union branch in Sorrento Valley that has been approved for a cannabis dispensary is seen here, Jan. 8, 2018.

San Diego City Council Approves Sorrento Valley Marijuana Dispensary

GUESTS:

Andrew Bowen, reporter, KPBS

Transcript

San Diego City Council members on Monday voted to permit a new cannabis dispensary in Sorrento Valley, bringing the total number of permitted outlets for legal marijuana in the city to 19.

The dispensary, which is backed by the marijuana business Outco based in unincorporated El Cajon, faced multiple delays over technicalities and zoning restrictions. It also attracted opposition from both anti-marijuana activists and rivals from within the marijuana industry who tend to benefit from limited competition.

The project's applicant, Belinda Smith, said after the vote that she was "ecstatic."

"Consumers do like choice, and they deserve choice," Smith said. "The more players that we have that are going to be compliant with the industry laws, the state laws, and the more choices we offer consumers, I think the healthier it is overall."

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who has emerged as one of the most anti-legalization voices on the council and who is up for re-election in November, cast the only "no" vote. Councilman Scott Sherman was absent.

RELATED: Marijuana Businesses Are Legal — But Darn Near Impossible To Open In San Diego

Opposition from the dispensary came from the volunteer neighborhood planning group and cannabis attorney Nathan Shaman, who represents another applicant seeking a dispensary permit in the same City Council district. City regulations allow only four dispensaries per district, and Monday's approval means only two permits remain in District 1, which includes La Jolla, Carmel Valley, University City and part of Sorrento Valley.

Vicki Estrada, the land use consultant on the Sorrento Valley project, suggested to council members that some of the opposition was based more on competition than on legitimate concerns over zoning or environmental law.

"There are some cannabis outlets behind us in line," Estrada said. "If you're behind us in sequence, you're going to do your best to try to move yourself up in the process."

Not all of the approved marijuana dispensaries in San Diego have managed to open up shop. Some have been mired in legal disputes while others are still fundraising, hiring staff or renovating their space. Smith said she expects to be open for business by September.

San Diegans will soon have another retail outlet to purchase legal cannabis, after the city approved a new dispensary in Sorrento Valley. The project faced intense opposition from both anti-pot activists and rivals in the cannabis industry.

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