Medical marijuana ballot measures took a beating in November, with residents in Imperial Beach, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Lemon Grove all voting down dispensary regulations.
But as it turns out, marijuana advocates may have won the most important race of all — the San Diego mayor’s race.
Bob Filner’s most recent proposal has marijuana supporters hopeful that the city will finally move forward with a comprehensive plan to allow dispensaries to operate legally. It would be especially sweet, given that the movement failed to get enough signatures in the city of San Diego to make the November ballot.
Critics, meanwhile, argue that marijuana dispensaries are still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. And U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy has waged a war against them — shutting down more than 200 during the past few years.
Our City San Diego, in our September/October issue, wrote extensively about the long-running controversy and the legal issues. Click here to get caught up on how this issue came about and how San Diego would be caught between the crosshairs of the federal government and the state if Filner’s ordinance is approved.
So who knows what Filner’s ordinance, if passed, would actually do?
Under Filner’s plan, which is go before the council sometime in April, medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to set up shop in commercial and industrial areas. They would have to be 600 feet from schools and parks. To operate, the clinics would be required to pay a $5,000 annual permit. They would also be taxed.
Filner has been nothing but aggressive in trying to help medical marijuana providers get government off their backs. He made national news when he ordered the city to stop its crackdown on dispensaries. He had to pull back, though, because of a concern that more shops might open before an ordinance is crafted. There were also legal concerns. Already-closed shops might have been attacked the city for its previous get-tough actions.
Filner’s ordinance is not the first effort in hopes of bringing order to this chaos. The City Council passed an ordinance two years ago to regulate these storefronts, but medical marijuana advocates thought it was too restrictive. They garnered enough votes for a city-wide referendum to repeal it. The Council then had two options: Fund the referendum (at a cost of a $1 million) or just do away with the ordinance then and there. It decided to just kill it.
The regulations were aimed at controlling the rapid pace of medical marijuana dispensaries opening in San Diego. They did so because there was a perceived softening in the stance by the federal government regarding state marijuana laws.
But they grew so fast and in just about every city neighborhood that community groups freaked. And the backlash began. Now marijuana advocates are hopeful that something will get passed before their informal holiday on 4/20.