Pubdate: Tue, 03 Apr 2012
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Advocates Want Issue on November Ballot in Five Cities in County

Amid a massive federal crackdown, medical marijuana dispensaries have 
announced plans to expand their efforts beyond the city of San Diego, 
proposing ballot initiatives in five local municipalities to regulate 
storefront operators and generate additional revenue through a sales tax.

The proposals - filed with Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon 
Grove and La Mesa - would limit storefront dispensaries to commercial 
and industrial areas and levy a 2.5 percent tax on retail 
transactions. They also would allow cities to recover their expenses, 
establish security measures and hours of operation and require 
licensing by existing city departments, proponents announced Friday.

San Diego County is the only local government with rules allowing 
dispensaries. Reaction from each of the five cities ranged from 
skepticism that proponents would have enough time to qualify a 
measure, to concerns with having storefront operators locating in 
their communities, to sympathy for patients in need of medicinal marijuana.

The proposed ballot measures largely mirror one planned for the city 
of San Diego. All are being coordinated by Citizens for Patient 
Rights in connection with the Patient Care Association, a trade 
organization of and for nonprofit dispensaries.

"Our organization has wanted to create safe access throughout as much 
of the county as possible," James Schmachtenberger, chairman of the 
PCA, said Friday. "As we began collecting signatures for the 
initiative in San Diego, we saw the need of patients in outlying 
areas, and we realized we were just under the deadline for when 
ballot measures would need to be turned in to qualify for the 
election in November."

A separate group of medical marijuana supporters has launched a 
citizen-initiated petition to reverse a dispensary ban in Imperial Beach.

The efforts come about a month after the U.S. Attorney's Office 
revealed that more than 200 medical marijuana collectives in San 
Diego and Imperial counties have closed since federal prosecutors 
announced enforcement actions aimed at growers and distributors in 
California. Many of the local closures were attributed to lawsuits 
and settlements involving the City Attorney's Office in San Diego.

Critics of dispensaries say they are illegal and threaten 
neighborhood security.

Representatives from the trade association and its political action 
committee acknowledge that there's little they could do to stem the 
flow of federal action because marijuana is illegal under U.S. law. 
However, they reiterated that changing regulations across the county 
was a critical aspect of their mission to provide access to medicinal 
cannabis while respecting community desires such as ensuring public 
safety, preventing diversion of the drug for recreational use and 
keeping collectives away from areas where children congregate.

The most significant differences between the ordinance proposed for 
San Diego and ones for the other cities is that accreditation would 
be handled by existing departments rather than a third-party. Cities 
also would have a 1,000-foot buffer between collectives.

Proponents noted that while they need 62,057 valid signatures from 
registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot in 
San Diego, the combined total for the other communities is estimated 
to be fewer than 10,000. In Del Mar, they would need about 320.

None of the five cities currently allow medical marijuana 
dispensaries. A judge last year ordered the lone collective in Del Mar closed.

Moving forward, "it's something that the council, in discussion, 
would want the voters to deal with," Del Mar Councilman Mark Filanc said.

Encinitas had one dispensary in Leucadia, which shut down about six 
months ago after complaints. "There was a lot of problems with drugs 
and things like that, and the sheriff had been involved," Planning 
Director Pat Murphy said.

In Solana Beach, Mayor Joe Kellejian said he was interested to hear 
the opinion of voters before wading into the debate.

Meanwhile, East County leaders expressed concern over conflicting 
state and federal laws.

"My concern is that if you want to get it, get it legalized 
nationwide, not play with it on the state level," La Mesa Councilman 
Ernie Ewin said.

Lemon Grove Councilman George Gastil said he was sympathetic to the 
needs of patients.

"It's made a huge difference for those who need it medically," Gastil said.

Still, he worried about having to ensure that the rules were 
followed. Said Gastil: "It's a whole big discussion that we haven't had."

Staff writers Jonathan Horn and Karen Pearlman contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom