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San Diego - Two More Pot Shops OK'd


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Downtown San Diego – Two proposed marijuana dispensaries, one in Clairemont and one near the Sports Arena, got key approvals Wednesday morning that put them in position to be among San Diego's first three legal pot shops.

A dispensary proposed for Otay Mesa got similar approval from a city hearing officer on Oct. 15.

Wednesday's approvals also stand to limit opportunities for other groups hoping to open legal dispensaries.

City regulations approved last winter cap the number of dispensaries to four per City Council district, and both dispensaries approved Wednesday could take one of those four precious spots in districts with a glut of applicants.

The Clairemont dispensary is in District 6, where eight applicants have proposed dispensaries. The one near the Sports Arena is in District 2, where 18 of the 38 dispensaries proposed citywide are located.

The one proposed for 3452 Hancock Street in the Midway district could also dash the hopes of five nearby applicants because city rules prohibit two dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of each other.

Both of Wednesday's approvals could be appealed by opponents to the Planning Commission for a final review. Such an appeal was filed against the proposed Otay dispensary, with the Planning Commission scheduled to vote Dec. 18.

Medical marijuana advocates hailed Wednesday's approvals as a major step forward for San Diego, one of the only large cities in California not to permit legal pot shops since California voters approved the use of medical marijuana 18 years ago.

"The city is finally turning a new chapter in the regulation of cannabis," said Lance Rogers, an attorney representing the Clairemont applicant.

Critics of marijuana dispensaries said San Diego should exercise its rights under state law to be a city that chooses not to allow them.

"This has nothing to do with distribution of medicine," said Scott Chipman, contending that the shops essentially deal drugs to young people who falsely claim they have ailments and illnesses.

Others speaking against the dispensary approvals included rival applicants who complained that the city has mishandled the process.

Joy Greenfield, who wants to open a pot shop at 3421 Hancock, said the city faces "millions in lawsuits" because a clerical mistake allowed the dispensary proposed at 3452 Hancock to jump ahead of her.

Greenfield said city officials are guilty of "strategic manipulation."

Edith Gutierrez, a city official overseeing the dispensary approval process, said applications often run into hurdles, allowing some to pass others up.

"Some applications had some issues that other applications didn't," she said.

Donna Jones, an attorney for another applicant in District 2, said the dispensary approved Wednesday is too small at 832 square feet and has an inferior location compared to some others.

Gutierrez said city officials don't weigh which proposed dispensary would be the best for a district, they simply schedule hearings for applicants when they've met all city criteria.

Opponents said the Clairemont dispensary, located at 8888 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, was a bad choice because it's less than 60 feet from the Vista Hill Foundation, a nonprofit helping adults and youth with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

City regulations prohibit locating dispensaries within 1,000 feet of "minor-oriented facilities," but city planner Chris Larson said Vista Hill doesn't qualify.

"It's not an establishment where the primary use is devoted to people under the age of 18," he said. "We acknowledge that people under the age of 18 may receive services, but that's not the primary use of that facility."

Kenneth Teasley, the hearing officer, said he approved both dispensaries because his role was to determine whether they adhere to city rules, not to decide whether marijuana is good or bad.

Shanna Droege, the applicant who would operate the Clairemont dispensary, said it could open in early January if Wednesday's approval isn't appealed to the Planning Commission.


News Moderator: Shandar @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: San Diego News, Local, California and National News | UTSanDiego.com
Author: David Garrick
Contact: San Diego News, Local, California and National News | UTSanDiego.com
Website: Two more San Diego pot shops approved | UTSanDiego.com
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