The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to legalize recreational pot dispensaries, but it will still be a while before they can open. San Diego is the first local city to do so since California voters approved Prop 64 in November.
That state law made it legal for people over 21 to possess and smoke recreational marijuana. Previously, marijuana was legal only for medicinal purposes and available with a prescription.
Now, the city is putting measures in place for when it becomes legal to buy and sell pot in January 2018.
Dozens of people gathered at the council meeting to voice their concerns regarding the proposed regulations for marijuana.
According to the proposed amendment by the city's Planning Department, marijuana distribution would be prohibited at special events. There would also be a limit to the number of marijuana plants people can grow in their homes to only six.
The department also proposed that packaging for pot and edibles include warning labels that list the potency. Packaging should also not attract children, according to the proposal.
The regulations are modeled after the city's current medical marijuana ordinance.
During the council meeting, Blake Herrschaft, Vice-Chair of the Ocean Beach Planning Board, said 81 percent of Ocean Beach residents voted in favor of Prop 64 and the proposed amendment goes against voters' wishes.
Herrschaft said they sent a letter to the city's Planning Department, opposing the amendment.
The letter, in part, read:
"The Ocean Beach Planning Board commends the City on a proactive approach to cannabis, but we very concerned that the “broad-brush stroke” approach put forward by the Planning Department does not align with the will of the community nor the General Plan. San Diego’s City of Villages development strategy is based on the goal to create “mixed-use activity centers that serve as vibrant cores of our community.” To create vibrant and sustainable communities, we need responsible, area-specific approaches to regulating new use types. The amendments put forward by the Planning Department are just the opposite, and do not reflect a fully developed, well thought out, area-specific approach to Cannabis use in our community."
You can read the full letter here.
One woman argued that she needed a specific strain and dosage of marijuana to control the side effects of medicine she takes for cancer. She added that it's the reason why testing and access to medical marijuana is important.
"This is about safe access to medicine," she said.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman spoke in support of the amendment, saying that the city has already experienced some of the negative side affects of illegal and legal marijuana use, including armed burglaries and robberies.
"We believe, at the police department, that the regulations in front of you today will help us, all of us, minimize the negative impacts of the marijuana industry in our neighborhoods," Zimmerman said.
The City Council voted to have staff return within nine months with recommendations to regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution and testing of marijuana.
District 3 Councilmember Chris Ward called Tuesday’s vote a good first step.
“More than 60% of San Diego voters – including majorities in every council district – sent a clear message on Election Day with their support of Prop 64, and I'm encouraged that the council is moving forward with a responsible plan that respects this mandate,” Ward said.