The most heated topic at the December 2 Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting was presented by Dave Martin, member of the Medical Marijuana Task Force, an 11-member organization established by the San Diego City Council this past September 9.
“Yes, there is a need for these dispensaries. The question is, how should they be regulated?” said Martin. That’s one of the issues the task force will address in addition to advising the city council on guidelines for patients, primary-care givers, cooperatives, collectives, and the police department.
Task force members were nominated by the city council and chosen based on their backgrounds and qualifications. The group includes: two attorneys, two individuals from local planning groups, one member of the clergy, one individual from law enforcement, one retired individual from the city planning department, two medical marijuana patients, one dispensary director, one member of the public at large, and Dave Martin, a business owner.
“There’s a huge potential for criminal activity,” said Martin. “We’re not going to be able to eliminate it with these programs. I’ve visited some of these dispensaries, and many seem legitimate but others do not. The problem we are facing is that there is no workable model...there are no guidelines. The loophole is wide open. There was a ban on licenses, yet every dispensary operated without one.”
One of the recommendations states that no dispensary be allowed within 1000 feet of a school or playground. Some of the boardmembers suggested including fire stations, lifeguard towers, and churches. Much time was spent by the boardmembers conceptualizing which areas of Ocean Beach would allow for dispensaries with such a 1000-foot restriction.
“Why have new guidelines? Why not adhere to the guidelines already in place for pharmacies and liquor licenses?” said a boardmember.
In Ocean Beach alone, there are currently seven to eight unlicensed dispensaries operating in both commercial and residential zoning areas.
According to Martin, the task force has reviewed regulations in 18 cities that currently have medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Initially, our mayor, Jerry Sanders, refused to be involved — let me use a different word, opted not to be involved, along with the police department. Both changed their positions in November and have offered assistance,” said Martin. “Issues will be presented at the December 8 city council meeting, and we will be asking the council to accept our recommendations.”
District Two councilman Kevin Faulconer — who represents Ocean Beach — was briefed about the issue, according to his policy advisor Matthew Awbrey. Faulconer’s preliminary thoughts are that he believes public review of these dispensaries is important and that his vote will be focusing on that element.