Task force apprehensive over medical marijuana

   Members of the East County Marijuana Task Force met Monday afternoon in El Cajon to review and discuss concerns about San Diego County’s draft zoning ordinance and regulatory code ordinance relating to medical marijuana dispensaries.

   A public hearing on the draft ordinance amending the Zoning Ordinance was scheduled for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday morning. In 2009, the supervisors placed a moratorium on such dispensaries in the county.

   The task force, which includes members from law enforcement and community groups such as Communities against Substance Abuse (CASA), examined the terminology in the draft ordinance, which refers to the facilities as “medical marijuana collectives.”  The “membership” of the collectives was not defined, the task force found.

   The task force also had questions about the operating requirements for the facilities and advocated separation requirements of at least 1,000 feet from parcels containing a school, playground, park, church, recreation or youth center, as opposed to the 600 feet suggested.  They also questioned where the pot would be cultivated, which could pose the biggest problem for enforcement.

   A task force member said the county will be headed into uncharted territory with such medical marijuana collectives. Dana Stevens, communications and development manager for CASA, said these facilities could create an overwhelming amount of documentation for the sheriff’s department.

  It was also mentioned that any applicants who were “grandfathered” in with zoning will still need a license to operate the collective and will not be able to open until the moratorium is lifted.

   The issue of medical marijuana collectives comes as a result of Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420.

   The state’s voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003 the state legislature adopted SB 420, which prohibits prosecution of sales to persons with a prescription.

   Three medical marijuana dispensaries were confirmed by August 2009 in unincorporated areas of the county: two were in Spring Valley and one was in unincorporated Vista.   The county supervisors that same month enacted a moratorium on all new medical marijuana dispensaries to allow county staff time to study where such dispensaries should be allowed and to determine appropriate use regulations.

   A workgroup consisting of staff members from the Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU), County Counsel and the Sheriff’s Department developed the proposed ordinances that would amend the County Code of Regulatory Ordinances and amend the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

   There are approximately 125 cities in California that have banned medical marijuana facilities, including Escondido, Carlsbad and El Cajon. About 11 counties in the state have banned the dispensaries, including Riverside and Santa Barbara.


Joe Naiman contributed to this report.

   
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