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Restrictive new ordinance passes 4-1, sharply limits sites where dispensaries may locate

“Virtually all of them are either undeveloped land, cement factories, mining operations, even land that’s zoned for treatment of radioactive materials,” -- Kate Valentine of Americans for Safe Access

July 2, 2010 (San Diego) – A restrictive new ordinance passed Wednesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will sharply limit locations where medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed and make it extremely costly for operators. The measure passed by a four-to-one vote. Supervisor Ron Roberts cast the lone dissenting vote.


“I think we’re violating the spirit of the law,” said Roberts, referring to the ballot initiative approved by California voters 14 years ago to legalize medical marijuana.

The new regulations limit dispensaries to industrial zones and require an armed license, video monitoring and license fees of up to $20,000. Supervisor Dianne Jacob introduced an amendment which further restricts allowable locations by increasing minimum distance between dispensaries and homes from a proposed 500 feet to 1,000 feet, as well as raising distances from churches, parks and schools from 600 to 1,000 feet. These are the same distances required for strip clubs.

County planners contend that there are at least 15 potential sites that could meet those guidelines, including areas near Gillespie Field and the Ramona Airport, as well as freeway-close locations in Alpine, Borrego Springs, Campo, and Julian.

But there’s a big catch.

“Virtually all of them are either undeveloped land, cement factories, mining operations, even land that’s zoned for treatment of radioactive materials,” said Kate Valentine of Americans for Safe Access, a group that supports access for medical marijuana patients.

There are no buildings on the sites, Valentine added. So add costs of building a new structure to the already steep price of opening a dispensary in the unincorporated area.

Supervisors Pam Slater-Price and Greg Cox acknowledged that patients may have to drive long distances to get their medical marijuana prescriptions filled in cities within the county where permitting is more lenient. Slater-Price cautioned patients to refrain from taking their medications until after they drive home. Supervisor Horn recently expressed frustration that federal law prohibits distribution of medical marijuana in pharmacies.

San Diego’s Board of Supervisors have fought a long battle against medical marijuana access. In 2005, Supervisors Bill Horn, Slater-Price and Jacob voted to oppose a state law that required counties to create medical marijuana registries and issue I.D. cards to patients. The County’s district attorney also helped federal drug agents crack down on dispensaries locally.

Supervisors used taxpayer money to file a lawsuit in 2006 seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the measure passed by both state and county voters a decade earlier. The County lost its case in court but fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year refused to consider the County’s appeal.

Critics of medical marijuana dispensaries contend that some are fronts for illicit drug use. Strolling down the boardwalk at Venice beach, the air is redolent with the aroma of weed. A hawker outside a marijuana clinic advises passersby that “the doctor is in.” Several speakers from anti-drug groups asked Supervisors to ban marijuana cooperatives outright, an option that County Counsel has said would not be legal.

Where to strike a balance between reasonable access for patients suffering from cancer or other medical conditions while preventing access to unauthorized individuals remains a bone of contention. At Wednesday’s hearing, numerous medical marijuana patients testified that medical marijuana provided their only source of relief from painful and debilitating symptoms –with fewer side effects than other prescription pain medication options. Medical marijuana is also useful in alleviating nausea among chemotherapy patients.

The County’s new ordinance requires dispensary operators to maintain accurate records of transactions including names and contact information of suppliers. It also prohibits sale of foods or beverages containing marijuana. The clinics would be regulated by the Sheriff, a choice some medical marijuana advocates have also criticized, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services would be a preferably regulatory entity to have oversight over dispensaries.

“I’m more convinced than ever that what we’re doing is the wrong thing,” said Roberts, who also cast the lone dissenting vote in 2009 against drafting the controversial ordinance. In casting that vote, he stated, “At some point, some of the leaders of this community need to accept that (Proposition) 215 is the law.” Roberts’ opponent in the November election, Steve Whitburn, also supports patients’ access to medical marijuana and opposes the County’s tough new ordinance.

But Jacob insisted that the Board has taken the high road.  “What the staff brought before us is the best we can do,” she concluded.


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Its time to recall our non representative, elected officials.

For the past year I have been meeting with, writing to and calling the boards of our cities and counties that make up Southern California with emphasis in San Diego, my home town.

In my line of work as a social worker with an emphasis in gerontology, I work with the Seniors and Veterans, and I have seen the miracles of cannabis in the lives of these patients. My message to the governments of these cities and counties was that they are effectively denying access to the largest population of ill patients in California and America.

In the 1980's I worked with the Gray Panthers, interacting with the cities who did not want residents above stores, as we see today. They wanted to keep the people in the suburbs and the bussiness in the business district. What we showed the cities is that as people age and stop driving, they need to move in toweard the cities so that they are able to access generic services. We eventually were able to convince the San Diego councils that it was a good idea, and today we see many of them.

One of these generic services utilized by the senior and veteran populations are the cannabis outlets. By moving these outlets to out of the area industrial areas, and prohibiting access, you are denying the people who need the cannabis the most. The sick and they dying.

Additionally when you try to prohibit deliveries of medical cannabis to these patients, a large percentage are bed bound or home bound, you additionally deny this population access. As a Social Worker working with developmentally disabled adults living in their own homes, some of them on very heavy barbiturates and morpheme,vicodene in 90 quantity bottles, and the pharmacies would always deliver, it was expected, and for free, and if the patient was not home, they would leave it on the front step. Even in Apartments with kids running around they would leave this bag of meds in front of the door. There does not seem to be any logic at all involved with the distribution of medical cannabis and certainly we can see a lack of compassion resulting in a lack of access resulting in more suffering.

Even after I stood and told this to the boards, they would shake their heads, say they recognized the situation, and then prohibit in a way to deny.

I submitted pilot plans to cities as well....with no feedback other than moratoriums.

At this point, there would seem to be no hope, as it is obvious the boards are not doing what the people want. There is hope, we need to appoint new elected officials that will respond to the wants and desires of the voters, not just the few. Starting in San Diego we are recalling the district attorney:

We will then start recalling the county board of supervisors, and the Sheriffs. In the 1960's through 1990 for clearly 30 years we protested, wrote letters, begged for them to remove the prohibition, then in 1996 we voted. Then the Government said "We dont understand it." Ok we said, and we voted again, and the Government went "ummmmm, no, its still no."

So its obvious even in the face of legislation they do what they want, which is non representative. So lets get in elected officials who really represent us, then we can start to clean up all these problems.

Medical Marijuana

Sounds like Ron Roberts is the only one with a brain and a clue about what his job serve the will of the people. What this group of fools is doing is trying to circumvent the will of the people. They wouldn't even be approaching the issue unless a MAJORITY voted for this piece of legislation. What did they do, take a private vote among their friends and donators who did not vote to allow sick people the freedom to access a SAFE medicine to relieve their symptoms? Or do they just think medical marijuana users are just a bunch of druggies supporting their habits? Let me get this straight. They're spending tax-payer money to try and sabotage what those tax-payers decided at the poles. WOW! I thought Obama was bad.

Roberts is confused as usual

“I think we’re violating the spirit of the law,” said Roberts. No Ron the spirit of the law was to provide MEDICAL help not create an industry of hundreds of hack MD's and their storefront pot houses passing out "prescriptions" to anyone who could reach up to the counter and drop down the money. The big loss will be all the lost ad revenue to the Reader as these things are shut down.