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By Leon Thompson

January 12, 2016 (Lemon Grove) - There will be zero medical cannabis dispensaries in Lemon Grove if Ordinance #437 passes on the “second reading” of the bill at the next City council meeting on January 19th.

There were nearly 70 people at the Council meeting Tuesday night, most of them there to express themselves over the medical cannabis dispensary issue.  The number of opponents and supporters seemed to be equally divided in number. 

The City of Lemon Grove has done the heavy lifting when it comes to dispensaries from the start.  Two years ago, after lengthy debate and much public input, the Council introduced proposition “T” for the 2014 ballot.  It would have set up a regulatory framework for medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure failed. 

However balancing the complicated and sticky task of allowing local access to medical cannabis, which was legalized by California voters over a decade ago, and appeasing merchants who claim storefront dispensaries drive away business, encourage crime and endangers our children is ongoing and taken a new tact. 

Ordinance #437 would ban “the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana” in Lemon Grove.

Last October, Governor Brown approved the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which went into effect on January 1st, 2016.    City Attorney James Lough made the point that unless local agencies have a land use ordinance in place by March 1st  that expressly regulates or prohibits the growing and/or  delivery of medical marijuana within their jurisdictions, these activities will be permitted and regulated by the State under the new California law.

The City Attorney brought the issue into local perspective saying, “the City has spoken,”referring to Proposition “T” that was defeated on the 2014 ballot by 60% of Lemon Grove’s voters.  He views this as a mandate for the city to eliminate dispensaries altogether.  City Attorney Lough indicated that this bill reaffirms prohibitions against marijuana that the majority of citizens of Lemon Grove want. 

But others say that there are hundreds or even thousands of patients in Lemon Grove who have the right to safe access to their medications.   The defeat of proposition “T” had more to do with the details of the plan rather than a mandate to eliminate all dispensaries, advocates of medical marijuana access argued. 

Supporters of the bill contend that in spite of the proliferation of states legalizing medical cannabis and even recreational use, marijuana dispensaries are not a good fit for cozy Lemon Grove.  They cite the fact that besides Lemon Grove, several other small town communities also voted down dispensaries in 2014 including Del Mar and La Mesa. 

Most of the supporters of the total ban on marijuana dispensaries were local merchants with storefront businesses on Lemon Grove Avenue or Broadway.  A total ban would allow law enforcement to close down the existing dispensaries.  

Sydell Howell owns a home medical supplies business and says her business has been suffering because of the presence of dispensaries.

Council member Jerry Jones agreed, saying,  “It’s all about enforcement.”

On the other hand, opponents of the ban say it’s all about access. They proceeded to debunk arguments that dispensaries hurt businesses and attract criminals.  They say that by regulating compassionate use dispensaries, the City of Lemon Grove will ensure safe access while protecting public safety.

Homeless Veteran Davon Green said that he is “off the streets” as a result of his treatment with medical cannabis for his PTSD.  He told this reporter that he takes a bus to the trolley stop, the trolley to Santee, another bus to Gillespie field and walks the rest of the way to the Outlier Collective where he can buy medication at the only legal dispensary in San Diego’s East County. 

Because of its location in an unincorporated part of El Cajon, Outlier dispensary is presently the only marijuana dispensary considered legal by the County Sheriff and all the overlapping jurisdictions including the State of California. However Outlier’s location at the east end of the Gillespie Field runway in an industrial park is not considered reasonably accessible from Lemon Grove, critics contend.

Tomas Geovanni owns three dispensaries in the City of San Diego and urged a “no” vote because “access is critical as in the case of those with epilepsy whose seizures can be fatal.”  

The back and forth was dignified, thoughtful and civil-- unlike the contention seen at other community meetings on controversial medical marijuana issues.  The Council slated a “second reading” and vote at its January 19th meeting. 

Other business of the Council included confirming the rotation of Councilmember George Gastil to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem commencing January 5th through December 20th, 2016 and establishing the Mayor Pro Tem rotation schedule for the subsequent two years. 


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