Pubdate: Fri, 24 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


Regulation barring opening within 1,000 feet of 'minor-oriented 
facility' was too broad

SAN DIEGO - San Diego officials loosened rules this week governing 
where the city's first legal medical marijuana dispensaries can open, 
giving new hope to several frustrated pot shop applicants.

The city decided to soften a prohibition against opening a dispensary 
within 1,000 feet of a "minor-oriented facility" because the 
previously broad interpretation of that term had stymied many applicants.

The change comes one week after a dispensary proposed in Otay Mesa 
became the first to receive city approval. That dispensary, A Green 
Alternative, is expected to open by the end of the year.

Several other dispensaries are expected to be approved in coming 
weeks. But some still seeking permission have been blocked by the 
"minor-oriented facility" regulation, so city officials say they've 
decided to change how they enforce that rule.

They've agreed to possibly allow a dispensary near such a business if 
most of the surrounding businesses cater primarily to adults.

Laser tag businesses, places that teach music and Chuck E. Cheese 
restaurants are among the types of nearby businesses that will no 
longer automatically disqualify a dispensary applicant, but instead 
trigger further assessment.

It was concern about children at such businesses that drew opposition 
to the dispensary in Otay Mesa at a hearing earlier this month. Judy 
Strang said the location was inappropriate because it would be near 
family food businesses.

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

Any loosening of the rules - particularly as it pertains to the 
proximity of minors - is likely to be met with further criticism by 
those opposed to allowing dispensaries at all.

The new change could eliminate a hurdle for seven dispensary 
applicants that had previously failed to qualify for approval 
recommendations from city planning staff.

"Many applicants weren't qualifying because of the interpretation of 
minor-oriented facility," said Edith Gutierrez, the development 
project manager overseeing pot shop applications for the city. "We 
came up with a definition, but obviously it must have been too restrictive."

Under complex city regulations approved in March, minor-oriented 
facilities are among nine things that proposed dispensaries must be 
at least 1,000 feet away from.

The others are much less vague: churches, schools, public parks, 
child care centers, playgrounds, libraries, other legal marijuana 
dispensaries and residential care facilities for senior citizens.

Attorneys for dispensary applicants praised the city's decision to 
loosen the rules.

"We're trying to have a workable ordinance and the eligible 
properties for dispensaries are extremely limited throughout the 
city, so hopefully reinterpreting one of the prohibited uses will 
free up some more locations," attorney Lance Rogers said. "This 
minor-oriented facility language has been the most problematic for applicants."

Jessica McElfresh, another attorney, said the new interpretation is 
more balanced.

"The goal of the medical marijuana community and the city has always 
been coexistence, and this clarification helps to ensure safe and 
affordable access to medical cannabis for qualified patients, while 
ensuring that regulated cooperatives will be a reasonable distance 
from places where minors congregate," she said.

Gutierrez said several dispensaries proposed in the Midway district 
near the Sports Arena had been blocked by a nearby Chuck E. Cheese, 
the Rock and Roll San Diego music studio and Ultra Zone, a laser tag business.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom