Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jul 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Medical marijuana advocates have obtained enough signatures to qualify
a ballot measure that could force repeal of new restrictions on
storefront collectives in San Diego.

Citizens for Patient Rights, the Patient Care Association and the
California Cannabis Coalition submitted 44,106 signatures -- 31,029 of
which were deemed valid, San Diego City Clerk Liz Maland said Wednesday.

The City Council, once formally presented with the matter, will have
10 days to either repeal the ordinance or put the question to the voters.

Leaders of the petition drive urged the council to overturn its
land-use restrictions.

"San Diego has brought this to the forefront of what's going on in
cities throughout the state and the country," said Bob Selan of Los
Angeles, CEO of Kush Magazine and spokesman for the Patient Care
Association. "There are people that are very passionate about this and
believe it's not something that should be driven back into the black
market. This ordinance -- the way it's currently written -- that's
exactly what it would do.

The ordinance the petition drive seeks to overturn was approved by the
council in April. It requires the city's estimated 160 collectives to
shut down and apply for permits. Dispensaries would be limited to some
commercial and industrial zones, at least 600 feet from one another,
as well as from schools, playgrounds, libraries, child-care and youth
facilities, parks and churches.

"It doesn't make any economic sense and it certainly doesn't make any
political sense to have an ordinance like this or threaten to make it
even more onerous because people are saying they don't approve of it,"
Selan said.

The City Council supported the regulations as a compromise between
patients who want safe access to dispensaries and neighborhoods that
want them banned. But there is no strong supporter of the regulations,
on the council or elsewhere, because of the nature of the compromise.

As a result, some support repeal in the hopes it will keep
dispensaries operating and some support repeal in the hopes it will
close them down.

On Wednesday, council members Lorie Zapf and David Alvarez both said
they support the repeal measure. Zapf wants stronger regulations, and
Alvarez wants to ensure safe access to medicine.

"I think there should be a better way to provide access for patients
while guaranteeing protections for the city," Alvarez said. "I would
seek input from all of the stakeholders where it wouldn't be
challenged so that we could actually have something in place and not
continue to be in limbo.

Councilman Todd Gloria said the advocacy groups that collected
signatures may not get what they really want. The city has refrained
from enforcing its codes on existing collectives, pending enactment of
the ordinance.

If the ordinance is repealed, the collectives will face code

"I am not entirely sure if the proponents really thought this through
because ultimately that would make them susceptible to enforcement
from code compliance, which has the exact opposite effect of providing
patients the access that we all want them to have," Gloria said.

Scott Chipman, chairman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, called
on the city to start enforcing existing regulations now.

"Have the City Council let it revert to the way it's always been,"
Chipman said. "They're all illegal, there's no zoning for them and
they are not going to get a business tax certificate.

"Have them call on the D.E.A. to go ahead and start enforcement

Cynara Velazquez, political consultant for the patient care advocates,
said the council has a second chance to create new land-use measures
that respect the rights of patients to safe access but also provide
clear guidance some 15 years after the passage of Proposition 215. The
medical cannibus community also is prepared if the council decides to
put the question before voters, she said.

"We have some support and momentum or our side," she said. "We also
have statements from Council members (Carl) DeMaio and Zapf critical
of the city's restrictions."

The regulations were passed by council members Gloria, Marti Emerald,
Kevin Faulconer, Tony Young and Sherri Lightner.

Emerald's spokesman said the councilwoman supports "letting the voters
decide." Gloria said the challenged ordinance was the most reasonable
compromise possible.

Faulconer and DeMaio did not return calls for comment. Young and
Lightner said they are weighing their options.

The new ordinance caused weeks of confusion for marijuana collectives
preparing to shut down or apply for operating permits.

Public-safety rules requiring dispensaries to operate as nonprofits,
curtail business hours and hire security guards went into effect in
May. However, it remains unclear how that would work, given that
applicants must first obtain a permit under the land-use rules being

The land-use regulations are suspended pending repeal or resolution
through a citywide vote, Maland said. The question of whether to
repeal the ordinance may be placed on the June 5, 2012 ballot.

Recent estimates for a five-page ballot proposition could cost up to
$865,000, according to Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler. A 10-page
proposition could be up to $1 million.

This year, the council voted to repeal its own rules regulating
superstores after Walmart collected enough signatures to force a
stand-alone special election costing $2.8 million to $3.4 million.

Municipalities have struggled to deal with the proliferation of
dispensaries since state voters approved marijuana for medical use in
1996. Most waited until the last few years to begin establishing clear
rules for storefront operators.

Neighborhood and anti-drug coalitions have maintained that over time
the state's medical marijuana initiative became less about the
terminally ill and more about an industry of drug legalization.

Young is moving the matter to the docket tentatively set for July 25.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.