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By Mike Allen

December 15, 2015 (La Mesa)-Although it already prohibits such dispensaries, La Mesa won’t allow the growing, sale or delivery of medical marijuana in its city limits.

At its Dec. 8 meeting, the City Council approved two ordinances that re-affirm and confirm the city’s existing laws, also expressly banning delivery of medical cannabis. The actions were taken following the adoption of a series of regulations covering the sale and cultivation of marijuana by the state that were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year.

City Manager David Witt said the new laws were approved following the state’s action affirming the city’s right to maintain local control over this activity.

“As a result of these actions, we’re making no changes to La Mesa’s existing policies,” Witt said. “These ordinances reaffirm our position that these activities are not permitted in La Mesa.”

A local speaker representing Americans for Safe Access, a national advocacy organization for medical marijuana patients, told the council there is a growing number of dispensaries in the city and it would be better if the city licenses these.

Three people spoke, two in favor of the ordinances and one opposed.

Vey Linville, an emphysema patient and secretary for the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access,  reminded Council that nearly half (46%) of their constituents voted for Prop J last year, which would have permitted the sale, cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana. Proposition 215, approved by voters statewide, allows cultivation for medical marijuana patients, with certain limits, though the line on delivery service is not clear, he acknowledges.   

“In their rush to obtain local control, this is persecuting sick people in their community,” he told ECM in an e-mail following the meeting. But he concludes, “There are certainly questions about the banning of cultivation,” he notes, adding, “You can’t wish sick people out of existence.”

Councilwoman Ruth Sterling motioned to adopt the ordinances affirming city laws, which passed by a unanimous vote.

In addition to banning the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana, the La Mesa Council approved a separate ordinance prohibiting the delivery of the product within the city.

Witt said he was aware of several marijuana dispensaries that were operating illegally in the city. “We’re treating them as zoning violators, and taking the necessary steps to get these resolved,” he said.

A man answering a call to Pacific Alternative Care, a dispensary that listed 7882 La Mesa Boulevard as its address on its website, said he had no comment on the Council’s action, and promptly hung up without giving his name.

In 2011, Pacific Alternative Care or PAC, was hit with a cease and desist order from the city of La Mesa and was reportedly closing its doors. However, it somehow continues operating.

Medical marijuana dispensaries began popping up all over the state following passage of Proposition 215 in November 1997, and at one time in the city of San Diego, the number reached into the hundreds.

San Diego began clamping down on the businesses about four years ago, while that city’s council put into place new regulations covering a myriad of issues, most importantly, where the businesses can be located.

Starting last year, San Diego began granting conditional use permits to qualifying dispensaries that pay fees ranging from $8,000 to $24,000. The stores can be located only in commercial and industrial zones, and are prohibited near schools, libraries, child care facilities, youth centers, parks and churches.

Thus far, the city of San Diego has approved 36 dispensaries but as of last month, only three were opened. Recently, the city of San Diego levied a $1.8 million fine against SoCal Holistic Health Inc. of Pacific Beach for operating in a prohibited zone.

The La Mesa Council also heard a presentation from San Diego Gas & Electric on a proposed electric grid integration plan that aims to increase both electric vehicle ownership, and the number of charging stations within the utility’s territory. SDG&E now has 974 charging stations at 351 locations in the county but plans to expand the number of locations to above 550 over the next five years.