After last week's panel discussion on Hillcrest pot shops, San Diego's medical marijuana task force took its recommendations to North Park. In his five-minute presentation, task force vice chair Steven Whitburn's song remained the same as the one he sang a week earlier -- 11 recommendations on how the city should regulate weed emporiums.
The mood from audience members varied from those at the meeting in Hillcrest. During public comment, North Park resident Ed Badrak was the first to take the floor. Pacing the center aisle, Badrak's emotions grew as he grumbled about the dispensaries operating on Adams Avenue, west of 30th Street.
"We have become a dumping ground," said Badrak. "We have more medical marijuana dispensaries now than we have bars and liquor stores. Something is wrong with this picture."
While most of the speakers were in support of medical marijuana, they disagreed with some of the task force recommendations, like the recommendation that dispensaries not be located within 500 feet of one another. Many speakers felt that distance should be more like 1000-1500 feet.
"If this continues, we are going to have to change the name of Antique Row to Doobie Row," quipped Badrak.
"I think 500 feet is completely ridiculous. We can conceivably see one on every block," said another resident of North Park, suggesting there be at least a third of a mile separation.
When it came time for committee comment, planning group members had many of the same concerns. Besides increasing the distance between dispensaries from 500 to 1000 feet, committee members suggested that all dispensaries comply with the regulations by obtaining Conditional Use Permits from the city. They also advocated that smoke-shop storefronts should "reflect the nature of the business" so that shoppers won't wander in to the store unaware of the type of joint it is.
In the end, the North Park planning group unanimously voted, with the exception of Whitburn who abstained from the vote, to accept the recommendations from the medical marijuana task force along with their suggestions, which will be forwarded to the Community Planning Committee meeting on February 23 and then on to the city council's Land Use and Housing Committee on March 24.
Until then, Whitburn and his medical marijuana task force will be presenting their recommendations to community-planning groups citywide.