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San Diego Loosens Pot Shop Rules

The General

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San Diego officials loosened rules this week governing where the city's first legal medical marijuana dispensaries can open, giving new hope to several frustrated pot shop applicants. The city decided to soften a prohibition against opening a dispensary within 1,000 feet of a "minor-oriented facility" because the previously broad interpretation of that term had stymied many applicants.

The change comes one week after a dispensary proposed in Otay Mesa became the first to receive city approval. That dispensary, A Green Alternative, is expected to open by the end of the year. Several other dispensaries are expected to be approved in coming weeks. But some still seeking permission have been blocked by the "minor-oriented facility" regulation, so city officials say they've decided to classify fewer types of businesses as minor-oriented.

They've also agreed to possibly allow a dispensary near such a business if most of the surrounding businesses cater primarily to adults. Laser tag businesses, places that teach music and Chuck E. Cheese restaurants are among the types of nearby businesses that will no longer automatically disqualify a dispensary applicant. The change will eliminate a hurdle for seven dispensary applicants that had previously failed to qualify for approval recommendations from city planning staff.

"Many applicants weren't qualifying because of the interpretation of minor-oriented facility," said Edith Gutierrez, the development project manager overseeing pot shop applications for the city. "We came up with a definition, but obviously it must have been too restrictive." Under complex city regulations approved in March, minor-oriented facilities are among nine things that proposed dispensaries must be at least 1,000 feet away from. The others are much less vague: churches, schools, public parks, child care centers, playgrounds, libraries, other legal marijuana dispensaries and residential care facilities for senior citizens.

Attorneys for dispensary applicants praised the city's decision to loosen the rules. "We're trying to have a workable ordinance and the eligible properties for dispensaries are extremely limited throughout the city, so hopefully reinterpreting one of the prohibited uses will free up some more locations," attorney Lance Rogers said. "This minor-oriented facility language has been the most problematic for applicants."

Jessica McElfresh, another attorney, said the new interpretation is more balanced. "The goal of the medical marijuana community and the city has always been coexistence, and this clarification helps to ensure safe and affordable access to medical cannabis for qualified patients, while ensuring that regulated cooperatives will be a reasonable distance from places where minors congregate," she said.

Gutierrez said several dispensaries proposed in the Midway district near the Sports Arena had been blocked by a nearby Chuck E. Cheese, the Rock and Roll San Diego music studio and Ultra Zone, a laser tag business. In Mira Mesa, an applicant had been facing rejection because the site was within 1,000 feet of Champion Rhythmics gymnastics academy, she said.

There are 38 active applications, but the city's ordinance won't allow more than 36 dispensaries – a maximum of four in each City Council district. And far less than 36 are expected to open because most of the proposed dispensaries are concentrated in three areas: Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa and the Midway District. Four council districts – 1,4,5 and 9 – have no applications pending. Rogers said the reinterpretation of "minor-oriented" could prompt proposals in more neighborhoods by making additional sites suitable for dispensaries.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Utsandiego.com
Author: David Garrick
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Softer enforcement of "minor-oriented" rule will allow more San Diego pot shops | UTSanDiego.com
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