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Politics

Judge Rejects Challenge Against San Diego's Marijuana Ordinance

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A legal challenge to San Diego's medical marijuana ordinance on environmental grounds was denied by a Superior Court judge, the City Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Judge Joel Wohlfeil rejected an argument by the Los Angeles-based Union of Medical Marijuana Patients that, by allowing marijuana dispensaries to operate only in commercial and industrial zones, the city will force patients to drive long distances, adding to traffic congestion and air pollution.

In his ruling, issued Tuesday, the judge said there was no baseline distance for travel to medical marijuana dispensaries, and no evidence of an increase. He also said there were no restrictions on how a patient can travel to a dispensary site.

Related: The Road To San Diego’s First Legal Medical Marijuana Cooperative

The city's zoning regulations went into effect last year, and prospective dispensary owners have applied for conditional use permits that will allow up to 36 collectives to operate in San Diego — as many as four in each of the nine City Council districts.

The first legal dispensary is due to open soon near the Brown Field airport in Otay Mesa.

"Whether to allow marijuana dispensaries in certain zones is a policy decision for the City Council and mayor," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "We will defend their legal right to make that policy call." He said if the law had been overturned, there would have been no legal process for dispensaries to open and operate legally in San Diego.

The plaintiff, which contended that the ordinance violates the California Environmental Quality Act, could not be reached for comment.

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