UT: CA Supreme Court Ruling May Have Far Reaching Implications From Marijuana To Housing
Speaker 1: 00:01 The State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that San Diego did not adequately analyze the environmental impacts of its 2014 marijuana dispensary law. The decision could be far reaching and that local governments will have to analyze even the indirect environmental impacts when adopting new laws. David Garrick who covers city hall for the San Diego Union Tribune is here with more. David, welcome. Thanks for having me. This was a unanimous decision from the State Supreme Court. What exactly did the justices say about the city's dispensary law? Speaker 2: 00:32 Well, the way it was adopted in 2014 and they say that the city needed to do more environmental analysis, uh, when they adopted it, that the city had said they didn't need to do any, that it was exempt from an environmental analysis and the Supreme Court said the city was wrong. Speaker 1: 00:46 And you know, they mentioned unforeseen impacts. Can you talk to us about what they mean by that? Speaker 2: 00:52 Yeah, and the key is that they're, they're indirect unforeseen, but reasonably foreseeable impacts, which is a wordy idea. But the, uh, the city said, we're going to allow these marijuana dispensaries in the city said having marijuana dispensaries in town isn't going to have any effect on the environment. It's not going to affect traffic. It's not going to, you know, change the way the city operates. And the supreme court said there are reasonably foreseeable indirect impacts such as maybe new buildings will be built because you're going to run out of retail space. Maybe traffic patterns will change. And they say that the city had an obligation to analyze those potential impacts before they adopted the law. Speaker 1: 01:29 And remind us about the marijuana dispensary rules at issue in this lawsuit. Speaker 2: 01:34 Basically medical marijuana was legal, um, starting in 1996, but cities and counties had at the discretion to decide whether to allow it or not. San Diego hadn't been allowing it. And then in 2014, they decided to allow dispensary's. Uh, but they had to be. So there's lots of real restrictions. They had to be in light industrial areas and they had to be a thousand feet away from churches and schools and parks. But essentially they were allowed, they also put a limit on the number per council district. They can only have four in each of the nine city council district. Speaker 1: 02:03 So there were a lot of stipulations, you know, why did the city of San Diego then determine it didn't need an environmental review? Uh, at the time it took up the dispensary law. Speaker 2: 02:12 Yeah, I mean it's hard for me to put myself in the heads of the city staffers, but from the documents they produce, they said that because allowing these businesses wouldn't, as far as they could tell impact traffic or other environmental impacts, it wasn't going to be, there weren't going to be in an Indian burial grounds. They weren't going to impact the life of a salmon or the life of a tree. They decided it didn't have an impact. Unfortunately they were, or I guess you could say fortunately, depends on your perspective. They were sued by a lawyer from Los Angeles who said the city needed to do an analysis. It's been winding its way through the courts for the last five years. And finally it got to the State Supreme Court and the State Supreme Court ruled the city was wrong. Speaker 1: 02:50 So then what kind of impact might this ruling have on the city's 23 marijuana dispensaries? Speaker 2: 02:57 Yeah, that's unclear. Um, the city changed their, their law when the s when State voters in 2016 approved recreational marijuana, the city updated its law to reflect that. So any of the marijuana dispensaries approved since then are in the clear, that's, I don't know how many that is, five, six, seven, somewhere in that neighborhood. But the ones that were approved beforehand under this old law that basically the supreme court ruled against yesterday, are they grandfathered in? You talked to the marijuana industry, they seem to think things are going to be fine, but there's some lack of clarity on the impact regarding those. Speaker 1: 03:28 Okay. And I, and you know, I mean, it's, is there going to be an impact on future dispensary's Speaker 2: 03:33 it appears that future dispensary's the city will have to come up with a law, um, that, that does analyze them environmentally. But there's an interesting element when state voters approved recreational marijuana, uh, the state, in order to encourage cities and counties to streamline the process said you don't have to do environmental analysis. Um, if you do it by July of 2019. So the city's law is probably in the clear in that regard. Speaker 1: 04:01 Mm. And also what about other cities and counties who are considering rules for where and how marijuana businesses could operate? How would they be impacted? Speaker 2: 04:10 Yeah, that, that's, that's a, that's a huge impact about according to the sources I've, I've talked to about two thirds of the counties and cities in California have not yet agreed to allow marijuana businesses. And they didn't do it by that July, 2019 deadline where you could do it without environmental analysis. And so now with this ruling, these have, you're a city that is gonna move forward with marijuana laws. You're going to have to do an environmental analysis, which could make it a longer process, could make it more expensive and might actually Dickert scourge the cities from ever moving forward. You also right Speaker 1: 04:42 in your story that this decision could potentially impact housing regulations? How so? Speaker 2: 04:48 Well, again, whenever the Supreme Court makes a ruling, lots of different lawyers and lots of different groups have lots of different opinions about what impact it's gonna have. This ruling came out yesterday, so I tried to get a quick reaction and we probably won't know the overall impact for awhile until we see it play out. But a lot of folks have said that they think this is goes beyond marijuana dispensaries and has a longterm impact on environmental analysis. Basically saying that any decision that a local government makes, maybe they need to be doing these, this analysis of indirect and reasonably foreseeable impacts that the supreme court said San Diego needed to do on it's marijuana law. Speaker 1: 05:24 Hasn't the city approved housing rules recently without conducting these environmental reviews? Speaker 2: 05:30 Yeah, San Diego has and a lot of other cities had the states a bit in the middle of a big housing crisis. And so a lot of cities have been approving a housing incentives, a ways to convince developers to build more housing. And a lot of the cities don't do environmental analysis. And this, this decision might mean that they've all been than, you know, doing these things illegally and they have to go back and study them. So it could, it could have a negative impact on the city's cities and counties efforts to sort of fight against the housing crisis. So has the city responded to the ruling at all? Uh, I asked for a response and a Mar Elliot's office just said they're going to study the ruling and see how it affects the operations. And they didn't go anywhere beyond that, so they didn't elaborate yet. Speaker 2: 06:09 So where does the case go from here? What gets kicked back down to the local superior court? That's a judge Woelfel uh, who ruled in the city's favor a few years ago. Um, and he has to decide what the next steps are. So that's often the way the state supreme courts handle it. Instead of saying, here's what's going to happen. And they say, we disagree with what happened and we're gonna send it back to the lower court and let them deal with it. I've been speaking with David Garrick who covers city hall for the San Diego Union Tribune. David, thanks so much. Thank you. Speaker 3: 06:38 [inaudible].