Medical Marijuana Dispensary Regulations Anger Activists
The San Diego City Council adopted regulations this week aimed at limiting where and when local medical marijuana collectives can operate, and ensuring that the shops are operated legally. We discuss the approved regulations, and why some medical marijuana proponents were angered by them.
David Rolland, editor of San Diego CityBeat
Scott Lewis, chief executive officer of voiceofsandiego.org
Michael Smolens, government editor for the San Diego Union Tribune
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
TOM FUDGE: This week the San Diego Council finally approved regulations to legitimize medical marijana dispensaries in the City of San Diego the use and the sale of medical cannabis had become a poorly regulated legally questioned mess in San Diego. But if you think the Council's action came as good news to medical marijuana supporters, you may be surprised. Some people call the strict zoning regulations under the law a de facto ban. Others pointed out that all the existing dispensaries will have to close down and then apply for licenses. David Rolland, what are the key regulations the council approved this week?
D. ROLLAND: First of all, what happened on Monday is the City Council in a cowardly manner caved in to the pro drug lobby allowing this dangerous insipid drug to continue unabated on our streets, endangering the future of our youth. It's a dangerous drug and these people who traffic in it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law up until cruel and unusual punishment.
TOM FUDGE: I would say nice try, but is where you point out that they adversize in David's publication?
D. ROLLAND: This is the point where we point out it's April fools day. No to get to your answer sorry for that diversion, I just had to do it. What they did was the restrictions as you said they basically are forcing all the existing marijuana collectives to go out of business for the time in which it takes to apply for a permit. And it's been said I have read that could take up to a year or so to fully comply with that permit. Then also can't original ordinance was that they can't be located within a thousand feet of one another plus schools parks anywhere where kids and religious people congregate. That was knocked down by an amendment put forth by Todd Gloria. That was knocked down to 600 feet. So those are the major restrictions. They also need to submit to audits if asked. They have to have on site security. There is limitations in terms of the hours of operation that they have to close down by 9:00 at night. But to get to the point if this is a de facto ban, it is temporarily, it is a de facto ban temporarily to the point where these collectives have to get permits. But the supporters of access to medicinal marijuana say it's also a ban to the extent that only a few would be allowed in the City San Diego because the location restrictions are so stringent that it effectively caps the number of them at a very small number which decreases the access for a lot of people.
TOM FUDGE: I sent an e mail to Alex Kreit who is the chairman of the medical marijuana task force in San Diego. He sent me some of the maps that show the places where these dispensaries can be located. And it is an odd collection of places. And hd has argued, David, I think that there are only about 15 places in the entire city where dispensaries could open?
D. ROLLAND: I have not mapped it out myself I just have to go on what he says. Alex is a bright guy. You are talking about Alex Kreit he was the chair of the city's task force on this very subject and they went through numerous hearings, a lot of testimony, a lot of studies of what other communities have done, and yes they have come to the conclusion and they sent the City Council a letter before the vote was taken on Monday saying the road you're going down, in all due respect, is not a road that we support.
TOM FUDGE: Let's go to the other editor. Scott Lewis what would you like to say about the decision that the council made this week?
S. LEWIS: It does put to rest the debate. Now they have clear guidance on what to do. The problem is it's going to take at least almost a year to rebuild these institutions after they close. So it will probably be about 45 days they'll close because they have to ratify the ordinance. And then they have 30 days after that to close. There was a push to give them nor more time after that to close. You might see a run on the pot banks. It's a very complicated set of rules. They have to submit to the audit and make sure the edible offering have proper packaging or whatnot. But it does provide a path forward. One of the issues going with this is the federal government still considers this an illegal narcotic. The city council for years was trying to decide whether it could embrace something that this other jurisdiction thinks is illegal. So this is in fact de facto endorsement of that fact that we are going to continue to allow this to happen and regulate it. The problem is for the short term the patients who depend on it are going to struggle in accessing it.
TOM FUDGE: Michael?
M. SMOLENS: What happens in the interim? The dispensaries the collectives are planning a legal strategy to stay open. If you shut them all down there will be a severe access issue for people that need this that have the right to have it according to the law. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out. One of the other things you and David were talking about were in terms of how many. I'm curious if this map was before they changed the restriction from a thousand to 600 feet and if that opens up things some more. But as we were talking earlier the numbers in this whole thing have been fluid finding what that means in terms of real locations and accessibility will be a key. Once that settles down to the whole accessibility issue and how this pans out. But Scott takes the view from above, the bottom line is there a guidelines now. It was the Wild West for years and we've seen the results of that and it hasn't particularly good.
TOM FUDGE: What have people been complaining about?
D. ROLLAND: Which people?
TOM FUDGE: The ones complaining about this being the Wild West that all those pot shops are causing a problem.
D. ROLLAND: They think marijuana is a dangerous drug and should be kept away from kids. More moderate people worry a little bit about this legitimizing marijuana in the eyes of impressionable kids and worry about its use recreationally expanding.
TOM FUDGE: There have been people complaining about loitering and crime and possible crime.
D. ROLLAND: They do worry about they try to have statistics I won't get behind because I haven't seen them, that crime in neighborhoods where there are collectives have gone up. They worry about armed robberies of these places. But people also bring up armed robberies of banks and that sort of thing. They just worry about the general environment that kind of comes with these things.
TOM FUDGE: Let's hear from Scott Lewis before we go to a call.
S. LEWIS: One of the most difficult regulations these collectives will have to face is the requirement that they prove they are non profits. That was a big complaint that people were making money on this, there were investors and shareholders incentivized to make a profit on getting as much marijuana out there as possible. So they will have to prove they are nonprofits. Books will have to be open in different ways. The other complaint they were just popping up. We regulate all kinds of different types of businesses. Where are they going to put them? This answer a lot of those questions. In fact it's an endorsement that this is going to be a more regulated process. We have a system basically pot is legal right now. You have to deal with that. That means we should just legalize it completely regulate it and tax it and solve some of the state budget problems. Regardless, we are approaching it more rationally than pretending it's not happening and just letting it be.
TOM FUDGE: Let's talk a call from Jim in San Diego
JIM: Where to start. Pot is not legal, buddy. It's not legal to sell marijuana federally or state. So we have all these shops that opened up all illegal all selling for profit. Check the Modem Magazine. Three major articles. This is all about legalizing marijuana which the voters just rejected. The articles good vibes and high fives. Skateboarders living their lives stoned. And then I have an insert called stoner girls which are very seriously ill girls in bikinis smoking pot. The next article, the day I got my marijuana card. It goes through the whole process the wink, wink process of getting your marijuana card for any reason and then to be able to buy any amount of marijuana from any number of stores with no limit.
TOM FUDGE: Jim I'm going to jump in here. What do you have do say about what the city council did this week
JIM: Let's go back a step
TOM FUDGE: Our time is limited what do you think of the council's action?
JIM: It's good if enacted properly. Every ounce of marijuana that goes through these what do you want to call them because they are no supposed to be stores, needs to be verified where did it come from? Did it come from a legal grove? You have to account for every ounce in and every ounce out and there's no way they will be able to supply their supposed patients with legal groves.
TOM FUDGE: Thank's very much. Why don't we pick up and that. Is that one point we should think about, where the marijuana comes from and what these dispensaries are going to do to document it?
M. SMOLENS: One thing he touched on he is coming from a certain point of view. There is certain validity to the fact that a lot of people who are getting pot with pot cards weren't envisioned under the initiative passed by California voters in 1996. It was to be seriously ill and I don't know that was particularly well defined. But that is an issue that is troublesome to some people because they see what they believe are generally healthy people without a lot of ailment beyond what you normally, have getting easy access to pot. So that is troubling to folks who have an issue with this. But the fact of the matter is California voters did support marijuana for medicinal use and the state and localities have to deal with it as Scott said. And the city is trying to get a handle on that finally.
TOM FUDGE: Let's take another call Marci is in PB.
MARCI: Hi. Yes I was at city council and gave them some materials. One of the things I said was Prop 215 has a loophole who allows doctors to recommend marijuana for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief. So people are going in there and saying they have anxiety on insomnia or anger issues and the're getting for 40s bucks a card. And the day after the city council decision Channel 10 did interview with a young black woman who said when 15 of her friends turned 18, they all went and got their medical marijuana cards and bought a bunch of marijuana and started distributing it to their friends. I have two teenagers and I don't want my teenagers to have easier access to marijuana or to see the shops and think this must be okay this is medicine. That's where I'm coming from.
TOM FUDGE: Thanks very much.
D. ROLLAND: Scott and I probably want to say the same thing. I think this woman I think she is out of luck because her teenagers will be able to get marijuana in very easy ways, whether it's through collectives or on the street. Marijuana is all over the place. It's very easy to get. This is why it should be legalized. We wouldn't have to go through this absurd dance. But on the previous caller, Jim, he is a little bit hysterical painting all these collectors with a broad brush. There are some trying desperately to adhere to the spirit of Prop 215. There are others who are exploiting it to make money. They are all over the map. There is one in Hillcrest in my neighborhood, on University you wouldn't even know is a pot collective it's so low key. That’s the problem with the ordinance. Communities like Hillcrest and Ocean Beach where there is broad support for this kind of thing in their neighborhoods, they cannot be in those commercial neighborhoods.
S. LEWIS: To Jim's point, buddy. You can't acknowledge and the woman previously also just said there is a wink, wink situation going on. You can get it if you want it. That's just the way it is right now. So we have to deal with that as a reality. You can't say it's not legal and acknowledge there is wink, wink system. So let's organize it and deal with it. As Dave said it's well documented access to marijuana is a lot easier for kids than access to alcohol. We have to deal with that. It's very hard to get alcohol because it's being organized. You have to show your ID. You have to deal with that. Obviously you can get alcohol, but the point is we need to rationalize our approach to these drugs. We need to make it transparent and we need to deal with it and have difficult conversations with our kids. As Dave experienced and Mike probably experienced it's very easy as a teenager to find access to this stuff. We have to deal with it more rationally.
TOM FUDGE: Let's take a break. I'm Tom Fudge. You are listening to the Editor's Roundtable. We are talking about medical marijuana right now. When we return we will wrap that up and spend a little time talking about the city's budget mess and pension reform. So stay tuned.
TOM FUDGE: I'm Tom Fudge. You are listening to the Editor's Roundtable on KPBS. My guests are Michael Smolens, government editor for the San Diego Union Tribune; David Rolland, editor of San Diego City Beat; and Scott Lewis, chief executive officer of voiceofsandiego.org. We're talking about medical marijuana regulations that were passed by the San Diego City Council this past week. Let's take a couple more calls on this starting with Jordan in Kearney Mesa which has a few of these dispensaries.
JORDAN: This is Jordan. I'm currently a president of one of these places. The topic I can see how people really don't understand as far as one of your other editor's outbursts there. In comparison to the outburst about how all of us should be very prosecuted here are a couple of facts.
M. SMOLENS: That was April fool's joke
TOM FUDGE: You mean the thing in the beginning? Yeah, that was an April fool's joke.
JORDAN: Alcohol that is consumed by yourself and others kills more people in this country together than all illegal drugs, first of all. Second of all, San Diego voters did vote yes, and the one million people that voted no [CHECK AUDIO]. No one is talking about that. You go up there and talk to the sheriffs and the people who are boots on the ground, and their paychecks Oakland police force their paychecks is paid by medical marijuana. Coincidentally they're going to pass the largest industrial sized growing operation the nation, seven square blocks, floors and floors thick.
TOM FUDGE: Jordan what's your main point?
JORDAN: Well my main point is that people don't realize that the number one threat to our children was illegal drugs, it has been replaced by obesity. The topics of conversation are getting way off track with how bad this is. It's more a political issue. If you look to the Middle East they accept smoking and they think alcohol is the devil. We are the complete opposite. We need to open up our minds and realize we
TOM FUDGE: Thanks very much. Thank's very much. Let's take a call from one more call from J.P. in Otay Mesa.
J.P. I just think it's so hypocritical that marijuana has been termed since the '50s I guess that Reefer Madness movie really struck a chord with all these people. The hypocrisy of it is just ridiculous. We have over-crowded jails. We have got pension issues, so much more important than this. Police should not be going around trying to bust people smoking or doing pot. The kids those 18 year old girls they were already smoking pot, I'm sure, before they got their cards. It's just a matter of do you want to keep it under ground or do you want to control and tax it? I'm not sure which gentleman it was that mentioned that, but that is what you need to do control it and tax it and the negative parts of the use be paid for by the users
TOM FUDGE: Thank you. Another argument for legalization.
S. LEWIS: The previous caller before him was trying to make the point that we have a weird situation now where the medical marijuana sector is actually incentivized not to legalize it. They are in charge of it and running it and they are who has to be turned to to deal with it. If you legalized it and controlled it and taxed it in a different way, they wouldn't be the ones in charge. And I think that's probably what he was trying to get at with that point. I think we as a country need to deal with a lot of these issues. We need to decide whether this is something we can rationalize or not. Look I would rather have 80 thousand or 60 thousand spectators in Qualcomm Stadium on marijuana than drunk. The problems that come out of that. I would rather have my son deal with that rather than be an alcoholic. We have a lot of issues in this country; this is not my top concern.