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Medical Marijuana Rules Face Additional Hurdles

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Nearly three weeks after the San Diego City Council approved sweeping restrictions on medical marijuana collectives, attention has turned to two seemingly unrelated agencies tasked with certifying the rules before they become law.

The city's ordinance regulating placement of medical marijuana storefronts must now be considered by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and California Coastal Commission, a little-known twist that is vexing patients, collectives and cannabis advocates.

The ordinance states that if the airport authority deems the restrictions consistent with land-use compatibility plans affecting airport facilities the ordinance would take effect 30 days later.

However, it would not become law inside coastal areas until the state commission unconditionally certifies a local coastal program amendment.

What remains unknown is when the agencies will weigh the restrictions. While the rules don't specify how many days the airport authority has to make the finding, state law requires a determination within 60 days, said Gina Coburn, spokeswoman for the City Attorney's Office.

"Because our office is not the office presenting the ordinance to the airport authority, we do not know when the 60 days will start," Coburn said.

The city has not submitted a proposal to amend the certified local coastal program, said Deborah Lee, a district manager with the Coastal Commission. It also has yet to request action from the airport authority, spokesman Steven Shultz said.

If the airport determines that the regulations are inconsistent, they would be sent to the City Council for reconsideration and possible amendments.

The dearth of information since the council ratified the pair of ordinances – one for land-use and another for public safety – on April 12 has sent mixed messages to medical marijuana collectives who are preparing to shut down or apply for operating permits.

Jeffrey Lake, an attorney representing more than 100 dispensaries, said some of his clients have tried to start the permitting process only to be rebuffed because the mayor has yet to submit a plan specifying who will oversee permitting, compliance and enforcement. Others have offered to put up deposits or requested property inspections. The lack of clarity has left most of the collective operators in a wait-and-see posture.

"The people that are trying to decide what to do don't even know when to make those decisions because it's unclear when the ordinances will become law," Lake said. "They are sitting there saying 'We think something is going to happen, but we don't know what, we don't know when and we really wish we did because clarity is very important for us in deciding what our next moves are.'"

Ron Miller, co-owner of the San Diego Alternative Resource Center and Collective, spent 13 years doing cancer research for clinical trials of traditional treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Since receiving his business tax certificate, Miller has gotten patients off OxyContin, methadone and morphine by introducing them to medical cannabis.

Over the last two weeks, he's closed the collective to go downtown and inquire about submitting for a conditional-use permit. "We've closed down for at least two days, sitting on hold with the city, visiting offices downtown and being bounced from one person to another," he said.

Being among the first to apply has taken on added significance because two nearby dispensaries also could submit their paperwork.

Under the new ordinances, the city's estimated 165 medical marijuana collectives will have to shutter their storefronts and apply for operating permits once they take effect. Dispensaries would be limited to some commercial and industrial zones and at least 600 feet from one another as well as schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care and youth facilities, parks and churches.

They also would have to operate as nonprofits, have curtailed business hours and hire security guards.

Futher complicating the time line for collective owners is the push for a referendum by Citizens for Patient Rights. The deadline to gather 31,029 valid signatures from registered voters is May 27. If the group does so, the council could either overturn the ordinances or put them on the ballot.

"We're out there trying to get the dispensaries not to close and to get them to join our association," said Greg Shultz, the owner of GSC Wellness. "The immediate focus is on the referendum and in another month there will be some alternate focuses.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: signonsandiego.com
Author: Christopher Cadelago
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC
Website: Medical marijuana rules face additional hurdles
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