San Diego Now Accepting Pot Shop Permits

Dozens of people waited in line for hours, even days, to submit an application

By Elena Gomez, Candice Nguyen, Steven Luke and R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Apr 24, 2014  |  Updated 11:27 AM PDT
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NBC 7's Elena Gomez talks with people waiting in line to apply to operate a medicinal marijuana dispensary in San Diego.

NBC 7's Elena Gomez talks with people waiting in line to apply to operate a medicinal marijuana dispensary in San Diego.

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Long Line Awaits Pot Shop Permits

NBC 7's Candice Nguyen speaks with the man who is first in line to apply for a medicinal marijuana dispensary permit in San Diego.
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The City of San Diego is now accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensary permits.

Dozens of people waited in line for hours, sometimes days, at the Development Services Department to turn in an application Thursday.

UC Riverside student Michael Banki skipped one of his midterms to be the first in line, camping out on Sunday in an effort to get his family one of the dispensary permits.

Banki told NBC 7 his family was inspired to provide access to medical marijuana after watching his grandmother's struggle with multiple sclerosis.

“She was up to 100 milligrams of oxycodone before she died of complications,” Banki said.

At 25, Banki has taken on a lot of responsibility

He's confident his family's application will go through and doesn't mind making up a midterm exam or two.

“This is a priority to me because this is what I believe in,” he said.

Dozens of others waited in line alongside Banki. Some held spots for others. Those who successfully complete the process will be the first in the city to legally operate a dispensary.

In February, San Diego City Councilmembers approved a new ordinance allowing a maximum of four pot shops in each of the nine council districts.

They will be limited to industrial and commercial areas, at least 1,000 feet from places like schools, parks, churches, nursing homes and other marijuana dispensaries.

Applicant David Speckman said he’s interested in the science and benefits of medicinal marijuana.

Another applicant Brandy Siebuhr said she is excited the city is making steps to legalize the industry.

“My passion is for people growing medicine and San Diego is finally allowing for us to be able to provide medicine to the people who need it in a legal fashion,” Siebuhr said.

The new rules strike a balance between providing access to medical marijuana and protecting neighborhoods, newly elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said.

The permit process takes months. All applications submitted Thursday will be available online for public review. The initial deposit for applicants is $8,785.

Edith Gutierrez city project manager for the application process denied the process could cost up to $100,000 as reported in other media outlets.

For step one, applicants had to provide 12 things including a grant deed showing that they have permission from the landlord or owner of the property where the pot shop is proposed.

Anyone missing one or more of the 12 requirements was turned away.

City officials will contact applicants within 30 days to verify all the documentation submitted is accurate.

Gutierrez said the city will post addresses for all proposed sites on its website within 30 days.

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