The La Mesa City Council is considering a recreational marijuana ordinance designed to stop illegal sales by flooding the market with licensed dispensaries.
Some say the ordinance is too permissive, and others are asking for looser restrictions.
Sean McDermott, owner of The Grove, the city’s first and only permitted dispensary says he is often undercut by unlicensed marijuana dealers.
"There was a lot to getting this store opened and to not be on a level playing field is challenging,” McDermott said.
Given what it takes to operate by the book, he questions the wisdom of an ordinance that would allow anyone who applies within the deadline the opportunity to operate a recreational use dispensary.
“It could be crazy. It could be the Wild Wild West here in La Mesa,” McDermott said.
There are currently 17 applicants. McDermott says there could be several more since every applicant that applies before council and passes its recreational sales ordinance is eligible.
Dispensary supporters say the flood of applicants will be allowed to essentially leap frog people who have applied and been turned down in the past.
"It is a matter of fairness at this point,” one protestor said. “All the previous applicants’ permits should be allowed to be grandfathered in."
During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, participants asked for longer operating hours and a boundary less than 1,000 feet from schools.
"We're in a heavy commercial zone with a gun store across the street that is a lot closer to the school than my dispensary,” McDermott said.
City Council members and staffers have spent over a year working on the ordinance. Tuesday was the first reading of the ordinance and no decision was made by the council.
La Mesa police say they shutdown 26 illegal dispensaries so far this year. The City Council is convinced that with more licensed shops it can collect more tax revenue and, at the same time, force out illicit sales.