Pubdate: Thu, 04 Dec 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


SAN DIEGO - Two proposed marijuana dispensaries, one in Clairemont 
and one near the Valley View Casino Center, got key approvals 
Wednesday morning that put them in position to be among San Diego's 
first three legal pot shops.

A dispensary proposed for Otay Mesa got similar approval from a city 
hearing officer on Oct. 15.

Wednesday's approvals also stand to limit opportunities for other 
groups hoping to open legal dispensaries.

City regulations approved last winter cap the number of dispensaries 
to four per City Council district, and both dispensaries approved 
Wednesday could take one of those four precious spots in districts 
with a glut of applicants.

The Clairemont dispensary is in District 6, where eight applicants 
have proposed dispensaries. The other is in District 2, where 18 of 
38 dispensaries proposed citywide are located.

The latter, proposed for 3452 Hancock St. in the Midway District, 
could also dash the hopes of five nearby applicants because city 
rules prohibit dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of one another.

Wednesday's approvals could be appealed by opponents to the Planning 
Commission for a final review. Such an appeal was filed against the 
proposed Otay dispensary, with the Planning Commission scheduled to 
vote Dec. 18.

Medical marijuana advocates hailed Wednesday's approvals as a major 
step forward for San Diego, which has not legalized pot shops since 
California voters approved the use of medical marijuana 18 years ago.

"The city is finally turning a new chapter in the regulation of 
cannabis," said Lance Rogers, an attorney representing the Clairemont 

Critics of marijuana dispensaries said San Diego should exercise its 
rights under state law to be a city that chooses not to allow them.

"This has nothing to do with distribution of medicine," said Scott 
Chipman, contending that the shops essentially deal drugs to young 
people who falsely claim they have ailments and illnesses.

Others speaking against the dispensary approvals included rival 
applicants who complained that the city has mishandled the process.

Joy Greenfield, who wants to open a pot shop at 3421 Hancock, said 
the city faces "millions in lawsuits" because a clerical mistake 
allowed the dispensary proposed at 3452 Hancock to jump ahead of her.

Greenfield said city officials are guilty of "strategic manipulation."

Edith Gutierrez, a city official overseeing the dispensary-approval 
process, said applications often run into hurdles, allowing some to 
pass others up.

"Some applications had some issues that other applications didn't," she said.

Donna Jones, an attorney for another applicant in District 2, said 
the dispensary approved Wednesday is too small, at 832 square feet, 
and has an inferior location compared with some others.

Gutierrez said city officials don't weigh which proposed dispensary 
would be the best for a district, they simply schedule hearings for 
applicants when they've met all city criteria.

Opponents said the Clairemont dispensary, at 8888 Clairemont Mesa 
Blvd., was a bad choice because it's less than 60 feet from the Vista 
Hill Foundation, a nonprofit helping adults and youth with mental 
illness and substance-abuse problems.

City regulations prohibit locating dispensaries within 1,000 feet of 
"minor-oriented facilities," but city planner Chris Larson said Vista 
Hill doesn't qualify.

"It's not an establishment where the primary use is devoted to people 
under the age of 18," he said. "We acknowledge that people under the 
age of 18 may receive services, but that's not the primary use of 
that facility."

Kenneth Teasley, the hearing officer, said he approved both 
dispensaries because his role was to determine whether they adhere to 
city rules, not to decide whether marijuana is good or bad.

Shanna Droege, the applicant who would operate the Clairemont 
dispensary, said it could open in early January if Wednesday's 
approval isn't appealed to the Planning Commission.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom