San Diego moved a step closer to legalized marijuana dispensaries, after the City Council voted 8-1 to approve operating restrictions, including employee background checks and a minimum fee of nearly $1,100 for annual operating permits. Of course, the feds could always close them down, but that's always been part of this years-long drama.
The Council approved land-zoning regulations in March that allow for up to 36 dispensaries in the city. Since then the city has been on a crusade to shut down illegal dispensaries and more than 40 applicants have been working their way through the system to get legal approval.
One dispensary — in Otay Mesa — recently won an appeal before the Planning Commission and is on track to open. Three other dispensaries are nearing final approval — in Clairemont, the Midway district and San Ysidro.
Proponents argue that patients need marijuana as medication. Opponents point out that, if it indeed is a medicinal drug, then it should be regulated like pharmaceuticals, with every gram being tracked. But for now the city has opted not to regulate delivery of marijuana or edibles, including marijuana candy.
While access to medical marijuana may be scarce for now, getting illegal weed doesn't appear all that difficult. Marijuana use among arrestees hit a 14-year high. SANDAG reported that 48 percent of men arrested in San Diego County tested positive for marijuana in 2013 and 91 percent had used it in their life. The numbers were almost identical for juvenile arrestees, with 53 percent testing positive for marijuana, and 90 percent having used it at some time. The average age for first use was just over 12.