Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jan 2016
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: David Garrick


SAN DIEGO - Legalizing recreational marijuana in California could 
bolster struggling shopping districts with new dispensaries but might 
displace art galleries and other low-margin businesses by spiking 
commercial rents.

Those are among the potential land-use effects of marijuana 
legalization discussed during a Tuesday morning forum in downtown San 
Diego sponsored by the Urban Land Institute.

The forum also covered San Diego's relatively new medical marijuana 
ordinance, which a local planning commissioner called "a horrible 
compromise," and new state legislation that's finally brought clarity 
to California nearly 20 years after state voters approved medical marijuana.

The forum was highlighted by Denver journalist Patricia Calhoun 
describing the effects of Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana 
two years ago. Her comments were timely, with signature gathering 
getting under way in California for a November ballot measure that 
would do the same here.

She said dispensaries, some with storefronts as sleek as Banana 
Republic and Apple stores, have revitalized downtown Denver and also 
some smaller nearby cities with struggling retail districts.

Colorado has 500 total dispensaries, with 300 in Denver.

Calhoun said, however, that the dispensaries have put upward pressure 
on commercial rents similar to a previous craft brewery craze in the city.

"A lot of the really creative ventures - the artists who would take 
over warehouses - are being priced out," said Calhoun, longtime 
editor of an alternative weekly called Westword.

In addition, Calhoun said there has been some cultural impacts.

Similar to Facebook, she said the common use of marijuana by adults 
has made their children somewhat less interested in the drug, because 
it seems less rebellious.

The national focus on Colorado has also created a backlash that could 
happen here if voters approve recreational legalization.

"Everyone who has lived in San Diego for, say, three minutes and 
thinks they're a native will start complaining that pot is bringing 
everyone to California," she said.

On San Diego's medical marijuana ordinance, Planning Commissioner 
Stephen Haase said he would have preferred the 2014 law not prohibit 
dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet of each other.

"Let them congregate, let there be competition and let that help with 
the regulatory framework so we can get an area that we can police 
very well," he said.

Compromise on council

Haase said the law, which many have described as too strict, was a 
necessary compromise among the City Council because not all members 
of the council support the drug's medical use.

"We're still a fairly conservative city," he said.

The commission has given final approval to 13 dispensaries, but three 
have opened.

Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry 
Association, said he expects recreational use to be approved in 
November and that new state laws make California well-prepared.

"We went from having one paragraph to 88 pages," said Bradley, 
referring to three state laws that went into effect Jan. 1.

The panel was criticized as ignorant by audience member Scott 
Chipman, leader of anti-marijuana group San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods.

"This panel knows nothing about this issue," said Chipman, contending 
they should have focused more on legalization increasing usage, 
homelessness and crime.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom