Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2014
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: David Garrick


L.A. Group Says Far Travel to Few Dispensaries Will Cause Problems

SAN DIEGO - San Diego's new law making marijuana dispensaries legal 
for the first time is being challenged in court by a group of medical 
marijuana activists from Los Angeles.

The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients Inc. filed suit last week 
claiming the city failed to evaluate the possible effects on traffic 
and air pollution that dispensary regulations approved in March might have.

The suit says patients needing marijuana will have to travel farther 
than necessary because the city's ordinance, which limits the total 
number of dispensaries to 36 and prohibits them in many areas, is too 
restrictive. That additional traveling will create traffic congestion 
and air pollution, the suit says.

"They took a huge gamble here by not studying this properly," said 
Jamie Hall, who filed the suit April 29 in San Diego Superior Court. 
"Our objective is to have the city thoughtfully consider their 
restrictions before they go down a path to limit access in this way."

The City Attorney's Office said in a statement on Monday that no 
environmental analysis of the dispensary ordinance was required, 
contending the proper time for such analysis will be when individual 
dispensaries are approved.

The statement also noted the ordinance provides a legal route for 
dispensaries to open, widening access for patients. Roughly 50 
dispensaries are operating illegally in San Diego, but city officials 
say each of those will be closed as quickly as the courts allow.

While the suit doesn't seek an injunction preventing city officials 
from moving forward with a dispensary application process that began 
April 24, local marijuana advocates said Monday that they oppose 
anything that could delay the opening of dispensaries and the safe 
access to marijuana they'll provide.

"While it's true the new ordinance is highly restrictive, this 
attempted end-run around our City Council through the courts will do 
nothing to improve access," the Alliance for Responsible Medicinal 
Access said in a statement. "Our local medicinal marijuana community 
should continue to focus its energy and resources on proving to 
regulators, law enforcement and the community that we are good 
neighbors and an asset to our city."

The lawsuit says the city's regulations are too restrictive because 
they limit dispensaries to a small number of commercial and 
industrial zones and require them to be at least 1,000 feet away from 
schools, playgrounds, libraries, parks, churches and facilities 
focused on youth activities. They also can't be within 100 feet of 
residential property.

The suit says this will require patients to travel long distances on 
a regular basis, an impact on the city that should have been evaluated.

"This additional travel not only may, but will, result in a direct 
change to physical environment by increasing traffic and air 
pollution," the suit says.

The regulations cap the number of dispensaries at four in each of the 
city's nine council districts, but the suit says zoning hurdles will 
probably shrink that to about 30 when the dispensaries begin opening 
in six to nine months.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom