San Diego approves new rules for pot shops

SAN DIEGO (AP) – Officials in California's second-largest city voted Monday to place restrictions on where its medical marijuana dispensaries can conduct business, barring pot sales within 600 feet of places of worship, parks, schools and other sensitive locations.

The San Diego City Council voted 5-2 after four hours of public comment, with marijuana-using patients calling the regulations too harsh and anti-substance abuse activists saying they were too lenient, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The ordinance will apply to more than 150 existing medical marijuana clinics and any new pot shops.

Under the ordinance that was originally proposed, pot sales would have been barred from within 1,000 feet of certain places, but city councilman Todd Gloria amended it to a 600-foot restriction.

The mayor has been asked by the council to come up with a plan in 30 days to implement the ordinances.

Ben Cisneros, of the nonprofit Canvass for a Cause, said the proposed regulations would push clinics out to far-flung industrial zones patrolled by federal agents near the U.S.-Mexico border and other remote areas that are difficult to reach.

More than 3,700 people wrote to city officials asking for a less restrictive ordinance to ensure AIDS patients, veterans and others have access to medical cannabis, he said.

Cisneros said regulations should allow dispensaries within 600 feet of schools and not require approval by the planning commission if they are in commercial zones and there are no complaints. He also said keeping dispensaries more than 1,000 feet apart from each other limits them because few landlords want to rent to the clinics.

“They're trying to zone out medical cannabis dispensaries as if they were strip clubs and adult book stores,” he said. “It's not providing access if you have to travel for hours on public transit and hours back with medical cannabis on you.”

Nearly a dozen cities across the state have imposed regulations in recent years that have forced many clinics to shutter their doors.

The dispensaries have proliferated under the Obama administration, which defers to state laws on medical marijuana, a departure from the crackdowns on pot clubs under President George W. Bush. Narcotics officers have raided dispensaries that investigators say are using medical marijuana as a pretense to sell drugs.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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