Pubdate: Fri, 13 Mar 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


Planning Commission Approves Kearny Mesa, San Ysidro Locations

San Diego - San Diego gave final approval on Thursday to what will 
become the city's second and third legal medical marijuana 
dispensaries - one in Kearny Mesa and one in San Ysidro.

Another dispensary proposed for the Midway District, however, didn't 
get final approval on Thursday when Planning Commission members 
raised concerns about parking, lack of sidewalks and how patients 
would enter the business.

Some commissioners wanted to reject the dispensary outright, but the 
commission eventually voted 4-3 to postpone its decision until March 
19 so that the potential operator can clear up the concerns raised on Thursday.

The commission approved on Jan. 29 what will become the first legal 
dispensary to operate in the city since California voters approved 
the use of medical marijuana in 1996. Operators of that dispensary, 
located in Otay Mesa, said Thursday they hope to open next week after 
a final inspection by the city.

Meanwhile, a judge has rejected an environmental lawsuit claiming 
that zoning restrictions in the city's 1-year-old medical marijuana 
ordinance will increase air pollution by forcing patients to travel 
long distances.

In addition to approving two dispensaries unanimously and delaying 
action on a third, the Planning Commission rejected requests from 
some competing dispensary applicants to consider multiple proposals 
simultaneously so the best ones can be chosen.

Competition to get early approvals from the commission is fierce 
because the ordinance allows a maximum of four dispensaries in each 
of the city's nine City Council districts, and it prohibits 
dispensaries from being approved within 1,000 feet of each other.

"This is one of the few times an ordinance makes getting through 
first a life-or-death decision," said Donna Jones, an attorney for a 
proposed dispensary within 1,000 feet of the Midway dispensary now 
scheduled for consideration on March 19.

Several commissioners agreed that the city's approval process has 
flaws, but they said it wasn't within their authority to delay 
approvals so dispensaries proposed near each other can be considered 

Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas said the commission would have no 
criteria on which to base such choices.

"There isn't any sort of rating system to judge the fairest of the 
fair," she said.

Thomas said a delay could also allow the applicant to seek automatic 
approval by contending the city was not complying with the Permit 
Streamlining Act.

Commission Chairman Tim Golba said such risk was a factor in his 
reluctance to consider an alternate approach.

The operator of the Kearny Mesa dispensary approved on Thursday, 
Shanna Droege, said after the vote that she could be open within 30 
days. The site is at 8888 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

"I'm just excited to start offering safe access," Droege said.

Jessica McElfresh, attorney for the San Ysidro dispensary, said it 
would open "within the next few months" and that the operator, Wayne 
Scherer, plans to be a "good community partner." It will be located 
at 658 E. San Ysidro Blvd.

The one-week delay for the proposed Midway dispensary, which would be 
located at 3452 Hancock St., created a small bit of hope for four 
other proposed dispensaries located within 1,000 feet.

But their prospects would have improved dramatically more if a motion 
by Commissioner Theresa Quiroz to outright reject the proposal had 
been approved. Instead, the commission voted 4-3 to give the 
applicant one week to make design changes.

Gina Austin, an attorney for applicant Adam Knopf, said the delay was 
surprising because she had expected an approval. But she expressed 
confidence her group could satisfy the commission.

"We want to provide a project that is the best project, and if 
there's health and safety concerns then we can address those," she said.

On the environmental lawsuit, Judge Joel Wohlfeil rejected concerns 
about the ordinance increasing air pollution, saying instead that the 
new law could reduce traveling by adding another means to obtain 
medical marijuana.

He also said the argument by the plaintiffs, a Los Angeles group 
called The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, was flawed because it 
assumed an increase in travel distance to and from dispensaries when 
there is no baseline for current travel distances.

The lawsuit, if successful, could have overturned the ordinance and 
nullified the three dispensary approvals granted by the city.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom