Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 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
Cited: City Council
Cited: Americans for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Protestors Briefly Disrupt Meeting As Council Rejects Changes

Over the din of civil disobedience, the San Diego City Council 
Tuesday signed off on a pair of tough new ordinances that require an 
estimated 165 medical marijuana dispensaries to shutter their 
storefronts within a month and apply for operating permits.

As council members prepared a vote to ratify sweeping limitations on 
collectives, dozens of medical marijuana advocates approached the 
dais, linked their arms and sang "We Shall Overcome." Several of the 
demonstrators, wearing t-shirts urging the council to "Stop the Ban," 
refused police orders to move.

The council returned within a few minutes and voted 5-2. Five of the 
demonstrators stayed even after the council adjourned, saying they 
wanted to be the first arrested under an "illegal" ordinance. They 
remained there late last night.

It is unclear how many dispensaries would eventually be able to 
operate under the new rules, though most involved believe it would be 
far fewer than exist today. The permit process could take more than a 
year, depending on the amount of opposition.

Although some council members were open to renew debate over 
controversial aspects of the rules, the majority of their colleagues 
pressed hard for a vote. Opposing the measures were council members 
Lorie Zapf, who has said they don't go far enough, and David Alvarez, 
who said they went too far.

Councilman Carl DeMaio, who was present for morning testimony, was 
absent for the vote. Todd Gloria, Marti Emerald, Kevin Faulconer, 
Tony Young and Sherri Lightner voted in favor of the new policies.

Collectives have mushroomed at a velocity that has confounded city 
officials and touched a nerve with some neighborhoods. The two city 
ordinances would limit dispensaries to some commercial and industrial 
zones. Cooperatives would have to be at least 600 feet from each 
other as well as schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care and 
youth facilities, parks and churches.

They also must operate as nonprofits, have curtailed business hours 
and hire security guards.

Proponents contended that the regulations would provide direction to 
police and code enforcement officers as they struggle to clamp 
controls on dispensaries that have been operating in an unregulated 

"If you want this to be illegal we could all go home," Emerald told 
the crowd, many of whom gathered were gathered since 10 a.m. "Instead 
we have a great opportunity to start off, I think, in a very strong position.

"For those who say this is a ban, you're dead wrong," she continued. 
"I look at the maps and there are commercial and industrial areas in 
just about every district of the city."

Gloria said while the legislation was more restrictive than he would 
have liked, it was the result of a two-year public process. "Politics 
is very much about what is possible, and what is possible is the 
motion that was made last hearing and the motion I will make again," he said.

Opponents asserted that patients and providers should not be zoned 
into far-flung commercial and industrial areas of the city and forced 
into protracted compliance processes.

They implored the council to adopt a two-year compliance period for 
existing collectives; allow storefronts in all commercial and 
industrial areas; reduce the proximity restriction to 600 feet from 
schools and amend the approval process to mirror that of pharmacies.

"It's OK to take one more week, two more weeks, to get it right, and 
to put medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives in the 
appropriate places for patients," said Don Duncan, state director for 
Americans for Safe Access.

Donna Lambert, a cancer survivor and longtime medical marijuana 
advocate, said all zoning should be used to expand patent access and 
not used to hinder or undermine state law.

"This restrictive zoning and permitting process is an elitist model 
that plays right into the hands of wealthy pot investors waiting to 
move in on San Diego with their exclusive license to sell, keeping 
prices high and continuing their pot monopolies," Lambert said.

State voters approved marijuana for medical use in 1996, but most 
municipalities were slow to establish clear rules.

At least 50,000 people living in the county have doctors' 
recommendations for medical marijuana, according to the San Diego 
chapter of Americans for Safe Access. Some 700 of them have active 
medical marijuana identification cards meant to shield qualified 
patients from criminal prosecution.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake