After four years of debate, the San Diego City Council on Tuesday supported a resolution to authorize fewer than 30 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city -- a sharp drop from the 140 or so that have been operating without permits during the past couple years.
Under a plan offered by Councilmember Lori Zapf, each City Council district will have a maximum of four dispensaries.
But zoning laws and other requirements will likely lead to zero dispensaries in Council President Todd Gloria's District 3, comprising Hillcrest, downtown and neighboring areas, and only up to three dispensaries each in Mark Kersey's District 5, comprising Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos, and Marti Emerald's District 9, which includes City Heights, Kensington and the College Area.
Medical marijuana proponents say in the end it's possible that as few as 10 dispensaries will meet all the requirements.
It was a compromise that left neither side happy.
Marijuana users -- including those who use it to alleviate the pain of cancer and other diseases -- complained that the restrictions would make the drug harder to get and drive up costs, while marijuana opponents said the restrictions would not stop the drug from being used recreationally or getting into the hands of youths.
Despite the sharp divisions on both sides -- expressed during two hours of public comments -- the City Council voted nearly unanimously to support the measure, with Kersey being the only holdout, saying he found it hard to authorize the dispensaries when marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
"Until Congress, the FDA and the White House resolve this issue, I can't support this," he said.
But David Alvarez, who supported looser regulations, said the city needed to respond to California state law, which authorized medical marijuana use in 1996, "back when I was in high school." San Diego is the last major city in the state to adopt medical marijuana zoning regulations.
"I'm voting in favor of this in the spirit of moving forward and doing something, because we cannot continue to do nothing," Alvarez said. "Sometimes we have to take smaller steps on the path to do the right thing."
A plan offered by the city planning department would have theoretically allowed as many as 131 dispensaries to operate within the city, although planning officials cautioned that zoning regulations and other factors would have had the effect of cutting that number far lower.
But Zapf balked at the number, which would have allowed up to 28 dispensaries in her district, which includes Mira Mesa, Clairemont Mesa and Kearny Mesa. She said a cap of four dispensaries each would be more fair to all the districts.
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Sept. 23, 2014 -- George Chamberlin speaks with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer about the importance of the military on San Diego's economy at a presentation of the San Diego Military Advisory Council’s sixth annual Military Economic Impact Study.