In recent months, the city of San Diego received enough permit applications to almost quadruple the number of its active medical marijuana dispensaries. The city’s land development code, officials believed, was too unclear for it to handle that kind of increase.
Are medical marijuana dispensaries a retail sales issue? Pharmaceutical sales? A medical office use? A dental or health practitioner? These uses are allowed in just about all commercial and industrial zones as well as medium- and high-density residential zones. By contrast, the land development code requires outlets that sell alcohol to be 600 feet from schools, churches, parks and playgrounds and 100 feet from residentially zone properties.
The city wants to study where medical marijuana fits in with its current code or whether it needs to create new zoning restrictions. In the meantime, San Diego has stopped its permitting of medical marijuana dispensaries/collectives until it determines new zoning criteria or a recently recommended task force addresses the issue.
The suspension followed a July 21 memo from city Development Services Department Director Kelly Broughton to the city’s Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee, which told of the city’s dilemma and its response.
Eight dispensaries have active permits in San Diego, but there are now 30 permit applications for dispensaries in the pipeline. The spike in permits follows a court battle that saw San Diego County lose its attempt to ban marijuana patient identification cards. The San Diego has a reputation as a difficult place to grow and distribute pot for medicinal purposes.
A proposal to create an 11-member task force to study medical marijuana issues at the July 29 meeting of the Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee has muddled the permitting situation for the moment. The task force, which is awaiting City Council approval, will attempt to give the city a holistic approach to marijuana policy, but the immediate suspension of permits hasn’t been addressed.