San Diego Backing Off Restrictions Against Medical Marijuana Collectives

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders says he’s not going to increase efforts to shut down current medical marijuana dispensaries.

Instead, he’s says he’s opting to preserve the status quo while collective operators look to forge their own path to legitimacy. Last month, the City Council went back on its restrictions against San Diego medical marijuana dispensaries instead of dishing out as much as $1 million for a public vote, according to SignOn San Diego.

The city council members were forced to act after a coalition of medical marijuana advocates were able to collect enough valid signatures to place a repeal on the ballot. In San Diego, there were more than 150 collectives approved when the rules were initially approved in April. All of the collectives were operating illegally under the city’s current zoning laws.
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Code compliance officers will continue to investigate complaints against collectives. This is the case for many medical marijuana dispensaries in Orange County and elsewhere throughout California. While medical marijuana has been permitted by city officials, the government will continue to search high and low for various code violations that can be used to shut down the businesses.

Our Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys understand code enforcement officers will stop at nothing to put these shops out of business. It is important to contact a experienced marijuana attorney if your shop is facing an unfair shutdown.

“We’re still approaching this on a complaint basis,” said mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing. “And I suspect that will continue to be the case.”

City planners were not involved in the drafting of the medical marijuana regulations, and many find no surprise in Sanders’ avoidance of the contentious and potentially expensive process of regulating the proliferation of dispensaries.

Closing down collectives in the city is no priority as the city is straining to provide basic services. The process to shut a collective down is plagued with logistic and legal problems and considering San Diego is facing a $40 million deficit in a $1.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, this is no time to take on the industry.

“The best use of resources is to get regulations that everyone can live with,” said Bob Selan of Los Angeles, CEO of Kush Magazine and a spokesman for the Patient Care Association. “We applaud the mayor’s decision and think it’s a good idea for everyone involved to have some breathing room.”

The groups that were able to successfully overturn the ordinance include Patient Care Association, Citizens for Patient Rights and the California Cannabis Coalition. All of the organizations are working to craft new regulations that wouldn’t require dispensaries to operate withing inconvenient industrial areas of the city.

The rules they repealed included a limited number of dispensaries to commercial and industrial zones. Cooperatives would be required to operate at least 600 feet from schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care and youth facilities, parks, churches and each other.

A number of city officials still back a ban. Many feel that the inaction on “illegal” businesses sends a loud message to local residents that says that neither they nor city officials need to respect the rule of law where marijuana is concerned.

Currently in San Diego, a business must have a business tax certificate, must be open to inspections by government agencies and must comply with a state law that defines specific conditions for manufacturing, packaging, labeling, advertising and selling food and drugs.

“With proper code enforcement the mayor could have shut down pot shops as they opened and could still shut down all existing pot shops,” said Scott Chipman, chairman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods.

Still, with the regulations repealed, there are 26 collectives that have been shut down because of city attorney enforcement. Five are tied up in litigation brought within the last year and another 38 collectives are in various stages of investigation, negotiation or pre-filing status, says Gina Coburn, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s spokeswoman.

“As prosecutors, the City Attorney’s Office will take enforcement action when law enforcement or code compliance provides sufficient evidence to meet our standard of proof,” Coburn said. “We will not look the other way on enforcement of the law on these or other cases. Again, however, there are circumstances where enforcement action is taken without the necessity of filing a legal action.”

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP is a law firm dedicated to the rights of medical marijuana patients, collectives and growers and has built a reputation for high-powered, aggressive legal representation of the medical marijuana industry in Southern California. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Mayor not out to shut down medical marijuana shops, by Christopher Cadelago, SignOn Sang Diego
More Blog Entries:

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in San Bernardino Face Lengthy Compliance Process, Marijuana Lawyer Blog, August 7, 2011

Officials Looking to Crack Down on Drivers Using Medical Marijuana in Los Angeles, Marijuana Lawyer Blog, August 3, 2011