San Diego

La Mesa City Council Rejects Proposal for Dispensary near Children's Clinic

The La Mesa City Council rejected a highly-contested proposal for a marijuana dispensary just steps away from a family health center.

A conditional-use permit to open the medical marijuana dispensary in the La Mesa Medical Plaza on University Avenue near El Cajon Boulevard was approved by the La Mesa planning commission.

Practitioners who have businesses in the medical center weren't happy about it, and they voiced their concerns at an appeal to the City Council Tuesday night. 

Challengers of the permit took issue with the dispensary's proximity location to a family health center, The San Diego Center for Children (SDCC), which serves as an outpatient mental health clinic for minors.

SDCC staff argued that the center should be recognized as a minor-oriented facility and should be added to the city's sensitive-use list, which would make it illegal for a dispensary to open within 1,000 feet of the grounds.

The City Council voted unanimously to reject the Planning Commission's proposal.

"I was not surprised," Cheryl Rode, vice president of SDCC said. "I think we demonstrated very clearly that we meet the criteria for a minor-oriented facility, that we are a school-based program, an after-school program if you will, and I think the council very carefully and thoughtfully deliberated that definition."

The SDCC has been operating at the location for 17 years and serves kids from 27 different schools, but didn't qualify for the sensitive-use list.

Wayne Scherer, the owner of New Origins, the group that would have run the dispensary, addressed the council Tuesday and said he understood the concerns surrounding the dispensary but said that it would be safe and run professionally.

Scherer was disappointed with the result of the vote.

"We're a very well-intentioned group," Scherer said. "We understand some of the concerns that the community has about cannabis in general, but I think overall perception, and the things we do with our other licensed dispensary, could have really proved that we would be a super valuable addition to the community."

The author of La Mesa's dispensary ordinance told NBC 7 that she was also surprised with the result of the vote, but added that lawmaking is not an exact science and said it is very difficult to cover every possible scenario.

A letter of appeal sent to the La Mesa Planning Commission said the organization behind the San Diego Center for Children is a 131-year-old non-profit that began serving children with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in downtown San Diego.

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