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On Thursday, January 20, San Diego Planning Commission members voted 3-to-2 in favor of passing on the Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Ordinance to the full city council for a final decision. The planning-commission vote marks one of the last stages in enacting an ordinance.

During the meeting, commissioners listened to hours of public testimony, much of that testimony from familiar faces. Scott Chipman, a Pacific Beach resident and chairman of the Pacific Beach Planning Group’s Alcohol Advisory Committee, spoke in opposition; Rudy Reyes and other medical marijuana advocates urged commissioners to approve the ordinance.

After hearing the testimony, the commissioners approved an ordinance that limits dispensaries to industrial zones, requires applicants to get approval from the city council, and restricts dispensaries from opening within 1000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, churches, parks, universities, and other dispensaries. It also requires owners to prove nonprofit status and provide adequate security and signage.

A few commissioners, however, considered the restrictions extreme. Commissioners Tim Golba, Mary Lydon, and Eric Naslund suggested allowing dispensaries in more than just industrial zones. Limiting the co-ops to industrial zones, said commissioners, would reduce the number of locations citywide to 97 and serve as a de facto ban.

“Ninety-seven still seems overly restrictive to me,” said Naslund. “Frankly, the voters of California had their say about this. Whether you agree with the law or don’t, it is the law. We have testimony from people that rely on this [as medication], and I am convinced by that testimony. It is incumbent upon us to provide humane and safe treatment.”

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