The city of San Diego is one step closer to having legal medical marijuana dispensaries after the city council voted 8-1 for new regulation amendments Tuesday.
The council approved a minimum annual fee of about $1,100 that each dispensary will have to pay for operating permits. Council members want the fee to cover cost of inspections, background checks, fire prevention, zoning officials and other issues.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald told those assembled in City Hall Tuesday this is an on-going discussion and more changes should be expected.
Other proposed amendments would allow the city to have marijuana tested for pesticides, mold, mildew or bacteria at any time, and they would require drivers making deliveries to patients’ homes to have a county-issued medical marijuana ID card.
Legal pot shops will be limited to four for each the city’s nine council districts, which could make permits valuable commodities. There are already 18 applications pending in District 2 alone, all in the Midway District. Dispensaries will not be allowed within 1,000 feet of another.
But neighborhood activists are not satisfied with the regulations, arguing they do not go far enough.
“Look at how a pharmacy is regulated. They’ve got hundreds of regulations that keep them in check. They basically audit every gram of medicine that comes in and goes out. There’s nothing like that in this ordinance. We need pharmaceutical-like regulations and tracking,” said Scott Chipman with San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods.
Others are frustrated it has taken this long, since a legal medical marijuana shop has yet to be opened within city limits.
“We California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996, so let’s stop messing with it. Let’s just make it available, make it safe, and stop with all the prohibitionist foot dragging,” said supporter Martha Sullivan.
A San Diego State University professor holds the first permit for a legal pot shop, set to open in Otay Mesa, but its approval has been appealed. The San Diego Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the issue on Jan. 29.