The City Council Tuesday unanimously approved regulations for recreational marijuana operations in San Diego in light of voter passage last November of state Proposition 64.
The city has a couple handfuls of medical marijuana dispensaries, which are expected to convert to selling the drug for recreational use.
The state measure, backed by San Diego voters by a wide margin, immediately legalized possession, transport, use and transfer of marijuana for people 21 years old or older. It also immediately allowed personal indoor and outdoor cultivation of up to six living marijuana plants at a private residence.
The new state law also provides municipalities with the authority to regulate marijuana-related activities and to subject such enterprises to zoning and permitting requirements, city officials said.
Land use regulations will be similar to the rules imposed on medical marijuana dispensaries, with some modifications and additions.
Recreational marijuana outlets would be permitted in the same zones, require a conditional use permit, and be required to maintain similar security requirements and separation distances from places like residences and schools.
There would also be no more than four such businesses allowed per City Council district.
“My vote to approve legal cannabis retail dispensaries complies with the will of the voters and the intent of Proposition 64,” said Councilman Chris Cate after the vote. “To ensure public safety I am committed to working with the City Attorney’s office and the Police Department to increase enforcement and expedite the closure of illegal marijuana operations.”
The main point of contention among the council members and public was over the supply chain, as city staff recommended a prohibition on cultivation, processing, testing, storage and distribution of marijuana and marijuana by products.
“This ban would require us to purchase all wholesale product from outside the San Diego County region,” said Phil Rath, who represents some of the legal dispensaries operating in the area. “Effectively it will be shipped long distance.”
Between extra costs and taxes, the price differences between legal and illegal dispensaries would be “quite large” and lead to further proliferation of pot shops operating outside the law, Rath said.
The council’s action called for staff to continue reviewing the supply chain issues and return within nine months. The permitted dispensaries can continue with cultivation and distribution until those issues are resolved.
The council also modified a ban on outdoor residential cultivation to allow it in secured exterior structures, such as greenhouses.
Council members last week extended a moratorium on new recreational marijuana businesses from 45 days to a full year. The temporary ban was designed to give city officials time to develop applicable laws, and will be rescinded once the regulations take effect.
Various parts of the local law will take effect at different times because of needed reviews by outside agencies. Commercial licenses won’t be issued by the state until next year.
–City News Service
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