Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jan 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Fingerprinting, Fees Added to Disputed Ordinance

Operating a medical marijuana dispensary in unincorporated areas of 
the county is about to become a more expensive venture, under a 
proposal approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The board voted unanimously to amend its medical marijuana 
regulations, imposing an annual fee of $11,017 and requiring 
fingerprinting and federal clearance for operators to become certified.

Assistant Sheriff Ed Prendergast said the proposed fee reflects the 
cost incurred by the Sheriff's Department to investigate, issue 
permits and complete compliance checks. He said the cost is in line 
with those in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Long Beach, which charge 
about $8,500, $11,500 and $14,700, respectively.

Last year, San Diego became the 10th county in the state to regulate 
medical marijuana collectives, restricting dispensaries to industrial 
zones at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, parks and other areas.

Cities and counties have been wrestling with the issue since state 
voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996, but local municipalities 
did little to regulate them. The result has been an unwinnable 
situation for decision makers, Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.

"First we were criticized for not having an ordinance, now we're 
being criticized for having an ordinance," Jacob said. "Some want an 
outright ban and some want more flexibility. In the end, today 
probably no one's going to be happy with what we end up doing."

Supervisor Ron Roberts said the need for medical marijuana was 
evident, but questioned how the regulations have evolved.

"I have too many friends going through illnesses where this is a part 
of their therapy to say that we don't need medical marijuana," 
Roberts said. "We've moved what should have been a medical issue into 
a law enforcement issue and I think that's unfortunate."

County officials have had a total of 12 code-enforcement cases 
involving medical marijuana collectives, said Joe Farace of the 
Department of Planning and Land Use. Nine of the shops were shut down 
for operating illegally and the other three were referred to the 
County Counsel's Office, he said.

John Byron of Vista said there are two dispensaries in the 
unincorporated stretch between Vista and San Marcos that have been 
violating the ordinance. Both received cease-and-desist orders and 
one has an upcoming court hearing - yet they continue to operate, 
Byron said. He said the only way to avoid the costly situations is to 
enact a countywide ban.

The fact that no one has successfully opened a dispensary in 
unincorporated area of the county is evidence that the regulations 
have served as a de facto ban, said Eugene Davidovich, coordinator of 
Americans for Safe Access, San Diego chapter.

Vey Linville of Spring Valley said those advocating for an outright 
ban too often focus on land-use issues while avoiding discussions 
about patients who benefit from medical pot. About a year ago he was 
referred by doctors to the University of California, San Diego, for a 
double-lung transplant, Linville said. Instead, he joined a 
collective, bought a quarter pound of marijuana concentrates and drank them.

"I got better," Linville said. "I am still on oxygen, but I've 
outlived all prognoses and don't plan to get a transplant. I keep 
getting better.

The amendments must still return to the board for ratification on Feb. 1.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom