Pubdate: Wed, 14 Jan 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: David Garrick


Environmental Appeals Rejected by San Diego Council

Maximum Number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Allowed in Each 
Council District.

SAN DIEGO - The City Council on Tuesday removed a key approval hurdle 
facing 11 proposed medical marijuana dispensaries that could be among 
the first legal pot shops to open in the city.

The council rejected environmental appeals filed against each of the 
dispensaries that marijuana advocates have described as strategic 
attempts to stymie applicants by further complicating an already 
turbulent approval process.

Councilman Todd Gloria endorsed that characterization during a 
two-hour council session focused on the appeals.

"I don't think it's about environmental quality or it's about land 
use, it seems that other motives are at work here," Gloria said.

Because four other dispensaries received environmental approvals 
before such appeals began being filed, the appeals have allowed those 
four to surge well ahead in the race to become the city's first legal 

Those four dispensaries have reached the final stage of approval, a 
hearing before the San Diego Planning Commission this winter.

The 11 dispensaries given environmental clearance on Tuesday will be 
scheduled for approval by City Hearing Officer Kenneth Teasley - one 
step before a potential Planning Commission hearing - in the order 
that their environmental exemptions were issued last fall.

The appeals didn't dispute that the dispensaries are exempt from 
state environmental rules. They claimed instead that city officials 
cited the wrong section of the law when asserting the exemption.

Similar appeals have been filed against five additional proposed 
dispensaries. The council is scheduled to handle those on Feb. 10.

Marijuana opponents used Tuesday's hearing as an opportunity to 
reiterate their concerns about dispensaries increasing drug use and 
making it easier for young people to get highly concentrated edible 
marijuana and hash oil.

Scott Chipman, leader of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said 
dispensaries affect the environment around them in ways the city 
hasn't studied.

"Pot shops are not the kind of businesses we need in San Diego," he 
said. "They attract crime and send the wrong messages to our 
children. We need to be considering San Diego as a family-friendly 
tourist destination, not a drug-use tourist destination."

There's a sense of urgency among dispensary applicants, because 
complex regulations approved last winter by the council allow a 
maximum of four dispensaries per council district.

Of the 38 proposed dispensaries in the approval pipeline, 16 are in 
District 2, eight are in District 6 and six are in District 8 - 
creating fierce competition in those areas.

Among the other districts, no dispensaries have been proposed in 
Districts 5 or District 9, one each has been proposed in Districts 1 
and 4, two in District 3 and four in District 7.

In addition to the four-dispensary maximum per district, the rules 
prohibit a dispensary from opening within 1,000 feet of another dispensary.

That regulation jeopardizes nearly a dozen proposed dispensaries in 
the Midway District near the Valley View Casino Arena, because one of 
the four applicants leading the pack is within 1,000 feet of many 
other applicants - including several that got environmental approvals 
on Tuesday.

Other proposed dispensaries clearing environmental hurdles on Tuesday 
include two in the Midway District, two near the international 
border, one in Mira Mesa and one in Pacific Beach.

For the four leading applicants, one in Otay Mesa will go before the 
Planning Commission on Jan. 29 and three others - in Clairemont, the 
Midway District and San Ysidro - have been scheduled for Feb. 10.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom