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The recommendations from San Diego's 11-person medical marijuana task force are in and will be considered at the Land Use and Housing Committee's March 24 meeting. Until then, task force members continue to meet with community groups and discuss their recommendations. Those recommendations include establishing a permitting process for dispensaries, restricting dispensaries from opening in residential areas as well as keeping them 1000 feet from schools and playgrounds and 500 feet from other dispensaries, requiring security guards to stand watch during business hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and prohibiting the storefronts from painting their storefront more than two colors and from excessive use of marijuana leaf designs outside the store.

On Tuesday, February 9, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest, Stephen Whitburn, vice chair of the task force and former city council candidate, joined Paul Cody, owner of Hillcrest Compassion Care, and Kim Twolan, owner of Mother Earth Cooperative in Mission Hills, to answer questions or address any concerns the community might have.

"In the City of San Diego today, we have no regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries and there is no formalized opportunity for community input," said Whitburn during his introduction.

Shortly after, community members were allowed to ask questions. All 12 residents who spoke were supportive of medical marijuana, though most opposed many of the task force's recommendations.

"Why have such an early closing time?" Asked one resident. "People can get other medications late into the night."

Whitburn answered by saying that the 9 p.m. closing time was recommended to address concerns from many residents that the storefronts would be a magnet for crime if they were open late.

"I am disturbed you want to regulate these businesses," said a different audience member. "The rules about the storefronts will hurt and restrict business. You should let them draw what they want to draw on the windows. You don't limit other businesses from advertising their product."

Whitburn urged the resident to keep in mind that the recommendations come from an 11-person task force. "Hillcrest is not all of San Diego and the attitudes for medical marijuana dispensaries is entirely different," responded Whitburn. "We have to balance your perspective with perspectives from other parts of town."

Medical marijuana activist Rudy Reyes, one of the final speakers of the night, asked what will happen to these regulations if a November ballot measure passes to allow anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and implement taxes on marijuana production and sales.

Responded Whitburn: "Even if it is approved, there are still going to be regulations the same as there are for cigarettes and alcohol. I don't think anyone wants to just wait to see what happens."

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