Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 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


City Hearing Officer Says Otay Mesa Site Meets All Conditions

SAN DIEGO - A group hoping to open San Diego's first legal marijuana 
dispensary got a key approval Wednesday that could allow the proposed 
pot shop to open in Otay Mesa before the end of the year.

A city hearing officer declared that A Green Alternative satisfies 
all of the complex conditions included in a controversial city 
ordinance approved last winter.

Barring a possible appeal that would require a Planning Commission 
hearing next month, A Green Alternative will be the first legal 
dispensary to operate in the city since California voters approved 
the use of medical marijuana 18 years ago.

Attorneys for the dispensary said Wednesday was a great day for the 
city of San Diego and residents who need medical marijuana.

"The drama of the past with regard to whether marijuana is morally 
acceptable medicine or an appropriate form of treatment should be 
dead, at least within this city," said attorney Lance Rogers, 
predicting the dispensary would open by Dec. 31. "This should no 
longer be a controversial issue - this is a land-use issue."

The owner was identified as Dr. David Blair, who teaches business 
ethics at San Diego State University.

Several other legal dispensaries appear likely to open soon afterward 
in other parts of San Diego. City officials said Wednesday that 
similar hearings are scheduled, or could be scheduled soon, for 
possible dispensaries in Clairemont, Pacific Beach, Southeast San 
Diego and the Midway area near the Valley View Casino Center.

A county-approved dispensary opened just outside El Cajon in late 
July. It's the only legal dispensary operating in San Diego County, 
but more than 100 illegal pot shops continue to operate while 
authorities try to shut them down.

A maximum of 36 dispensaries are allowed under city rules, with a cap 
of four in each of the nine City Council districts.

But the total is expected to be far lower, with most of the 38 
proposed dispensaries that have applied to the city concentrated in 
the Midway area of council district No. 2 and the communities of 
Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa in council district No. 6. No dispensaries 
have been proposed in districts 4, 5 or 9.

Two city residents raised concerns Wednesday about the Otay 
dispensary, which would be a nonprofit located in a 1,400-square-foot 
site on Roll Drive near the international border.

Judy Strang said the location was inappropriate because it would be 
near "family" food businesses and a Carl's Jr. restaurant where many 
children eat each day.

"There are a lot of families with children coming and going," she said.

Strang also questioned whether merchants in the area had been 
notified about the dispensary, which will be allowed to operate for 
five years once final approval is received. Edith Gutierrez, a city 
development project manager, said every tenant and land owner within 
300 feet of the Otay site was notified by mail.

Barbara Gordon said it was premature to approve the dispensary with 
city officials still weighing a possible ban on the sale of marijuana 
edibles at pot shops. She also said dispensaries are dangerous.

"These are not benign businesses as some people have portrayed them," 
Gordon said.

Several other speakers praised the proposed dispensary, citing 
marijuana's medical benefits.

Irene Gomez credited the drug, which remains illegal under federal 
law, with ending severe problems she previously had with anxiety and 

Hearing Officer Kenneth Teasley approved the dispensary, explaining 
that his role was only to determine whether the application meets the 
city's land-use criteria.

"There is nothing related to these that has to do with whether or not 
marijuana is medically good or bad, it's strictly a locational issue," he said.

Gutierrez said the Otay dispensary satisfies requirements that it be 
at least 100 feet away from residential property and at least 1,000 
feet from schools, playgrounds, libraries, parks, churches and 
facilities focused on youth activities. She said restaurants, such as 
Carl's Jr., are not on the list of prohibited nearby businesses.

The Otay Mesa Planning Group voted Sept. 17 to recommend approval of 
the dispensary.

An appeal of Wednesday's approval must be filed within 10 business 
days, or by Oct. 30.

Twenty-three states, including California, allow the sale of medical 
marijuana. Two others - Colorado and Washington - allow the sale of 
recreational marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom