In March 2014, San Diego's city councilmembers approved the sale and distribution of medical marijuana in designated areas throughout the city. What they didn't do, however, is address where, or how, dispensary owners should store the marijuana. That question remains unanswered.
On October 6, the city attorney's office issued a memo to San Diego's director of development services, Robert Vacchi, confirming that when it comes to storing medical marijuana, dispensaries and collectives are on their own.
"The City of San Diego does not currently have any land use regulations specifically governing medical marijuana storage," reads the October 6 memo. "The current city land use regulations only regulate where [dispensaries], as defined, may be located, the required permit process, and related conditions of approval and operation of [dispensaries]. Therefore, under the current San Diego Municipal Code, storage, as well as any other potential land uses regarding medical marijuana, is subject to those land use regulations that are generally applicable to the use being considered."
The memo goes on to say that storing medical marijuana could run afoul with state and federal laws.
As of September, city officials have given 11 dispensaries the green light to operate in the San Diego. But it didn't come easy for patients and dispensary owners.
The city spent years grappling with the issue of where to locate legal pot dispensaries. In April 2011 city officials adopted what patients and other activists claimed was the most restrictive medical marijuana ordinance in California. The ordinance essentially banned dispensaries through strict zoning and land-use requirements. After patients’ rights groups contested the de-facto ban, the city council voted to repeal the ordinance.
During the following three years, without an ordinance in place, illegal dispensaries popped up throughout the city. The city attorney's office spent hours tracking down the non-permitted pot shops, oftentimes paying employees to log onto the internet to find them and filing lawsuits against the owners. The city attorney's office has claimed to have closed down over 200 dispensaries citywide.
Finally, in March 2014, the city council adopted a new ordinance. Activists and patients still view the ordinance as burdensome. The ordinance currently allows for 36 dispensaries citywide, and they aren’t within 1000 feet of playgrounds, public parks, child-care centers, residential care facilities, schools, churches, or other dispensaries. Also, they are prohibited from being located within 100 feet of residential zones.
Store at your own risk
Now, dispensary owners have been put on notice that storing their crop could get them in trouble with the law.
Reads the memo, "As stated earlier, that the use involves medical marijuana is irrelevant to the land use determination; if such storage violates state and federal laws, that activity remains illegal under those laws. Should anyone desire a use determination or an amendment to the zoning law, a process is set forth in the San Diego Municipal Code."