COMMENTARY with VIDEO: What you need to know about Medical Cannabis Ordinance

On March 28, the San Diego City Council will be voting on an ordinance governing San Diego’s medical cannabis facilities.

LGBT groups, veterans groups, church groups, drug policy reformers, community activists, business groups, and others have united in opposition to the ordinance because it may amount to a de facto ban that will harm patients, families and communities in San Diego.

This is what you need to know:

How we came to be here

In 1996, the voters of California approved Proposition 215, which allows patients who have received a valid doctor’s recommendation to obtain and use medical cannabis. Despite passing with 56% of the vote statewide – and 52% here in San Diego county – the City of San Diego has yet to adopt an ordinance which governs where facilities can operate, what hours they can keep, etc.

In 2009, the city created the second Medical Marijuana Task Force (MMTF) for the purpose of generating recommendations for the regulation of medical cannabis facilities. After working intensely for a year, the MMTF issued a set of recommendations which satisfied patient’s advocates but which the city council largely chose to ignore when crafting the current ordinance.

Every medical cannabis facility will be shut down

If this ordinance passes as currently written, every medical cannabis collective in the city will be shut down. The ordinance was specifically designed to ensure that no collectives could “grandfather” into the ordinance. Collectives may – may – be able to reopen, but first they will all have to close their doors.

Where they can reopen

This ordinance is built around the premise that medical cannabis is dangerous to communities and children - despite the fact that violent crime in San Diego has dropped 50% since 1996 and that there are no known instances of collectives supplying medical cannabis illicitly to minors – and as such this ordinance extremely limits the areas of the city where medical cannabis facilities are able to reopen.

In limiting facilities to a handful of industrial zones and requiring them to locate 1,000 feet away from places of worship, bus stops, parks, libraries, residencies, other collectives, as well as a host of other establishments, this ordinance would ensure that patients with AIDS, cancer, MS, cerebal palsy, and other debilitating illnesses would have to travel to isolated industrial centers far from the major population centers of the city to get their medicine – if any collectives are allowed to reopen at all.

Process 4 permits and the political ban on medical cannabis

Any project opening in the city of San Diego needs to go through a permitting process, with some permits being easier to obtain than others. If a pharmacy were opening in the city of San Diego, they would apply for a process 1 – or “by right” – permit. Under this ordinance a medical cannabis facility would have to apply for a process 4 permit – the same as airports.

In addition to being prohibitively expensive, a process 4 permit requires approval by a vote of the San Diego planning commission for every single collective that attempts to reopen. If the planning commission votes down the permit – this is the same planning commission that worked to make this ordinance more restrictive – the decision can be appealed to the city council for a vote. If the city council votes the permit down, the facility will not be allowed to reopen.

By requiring a process 4 permit, the city council - by simply not approving any permits - can enforce a complete ban on medical cannabis in the city of San Diego.

Stop The Ban

Headed by Canvass for a Cause and the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a coalition group of LGBT groups, veterans groups, church groups, drug policy reformers, student groups, business groups and community activists have banded together to launch the Stop The Ban campaign aimed at educating the public about the ordinance and connecting the City Council to the widespread public opposition that exists for the ordinance.

Stop The Ban has collected over 2100 letters to the city council in opposition to the ordinance - the largest letter writing campaign in San Diego’s history –and has guaranteed that if the City Council approves this ordinance, they will have done so over the largest public opposition to an upcoming ordinance in the city’s history.

Stop The Ban has a guide to writing your city councilmember at www.stopthebansd.org and we encourage all San Diegans to make your voice heard by writing your city councilperson urging them to amend this ordinance and to approve an ordinance that guarantees safe access for patients and respects the will of the voters.



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