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Plan To Allow Legal Pot Shops In Unincorporated Areas Dies For Lack Of Support

A marijuana plant is shown in this undated photo.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: A marijuana plant is shown in this undated photo.

A county supervisor's proposal to allow recreational cannabis products to be sold in unincorporated areas failed to advance Wednesday, after no other board member supported it.

Nathan Fletcher asked the board to approve zoning ordinances that would allow cultivation and retail sale of cannabis and related products, including edibles, in commercial and industrial areas, a cannabis permitting program that would include a "social equity" component, and to set up a taxation system.

Fletcher's motion died for lack of a second.

California residents approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2016, but the next year San Diego County supervisors voted to ban all marijuana businesses in the county's unincorporated areas.

Furthermore, five existing medical cannabis facilities have been ordered to close by 2022, according to Fletcher's office.

In a statement also posted on Twitter after the board's lack of action, Fletcher said his proposal "would have allowed for the development of a cannabis industry that is safe, regulated and legal."

He criticized Supervisor Kristin Gaspar for leading fellow board members "on an outdated and out-of-touch view of legal cannabis."

Fletcher said that "by saying 'no' to creating a regulated market, they have opened the floodgates for more illegal shops, more criminal activity and substantial losses in tax revenue to our county."

During the meeting, Gaspar asked Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten several questions on marijuana usage and its safety, and county policies. Wooten said she supports a policy of safe regulation and compliance.

Gaspar responded in a written statement, saying Fletcher's proposal "did not receive a second, which means he did not have the support of a single supervisor, but not surprisingly only mentions one by name."

Dozens of county residents called in on Fletcher's proposal. Those in favor said it was necessary so people can legally buy marijuana, especially for medical reasons. Others said legalization would be socially responsible, especially for people of color who have been unfairly penalized for marijuana usage in the past.

Opponents cited numerous health problems associated with marijuana, including more emergency room visits and growing usage among teenagers. They also argued that anyone wanting to purchase marijuana may already do so elsewhere in the county or via the internet.

Dallin Young, of the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce's San Diego chapter, said an illicit cannabis market "is a regional problem, and won't change until a structure is in place."

He added Fletcher's proposal would have allowed "our industry to move forward in a just way."

Scott Chipman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods said the county has shown leadership with its ban, and any easing of restrictions "streamlines a process for ex-cons to set up a pot store."

Chipman added that a recent "60 Minutes" segment showed that "virtually nothing is working" with California's legal marijuana market, and that "we need a complete re-education program on marijuana."

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