Posted on: Jul 05, 2013By Michael Cindrich

BY Craig Gustafson on SanDiego Union-Tribune:

When it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego, the city might consider putting up a “Welcome to the Wild West” sign because that may be the most accurate description of the current state of affairs.

No rules. No regulations. No oversight.

At least 15 dispensaries are operating illegally within city limits as San Diego leaders attempt a second swing at implementing an ordinance that would provide a path to legitimacy for those businesses.

At the center of it all is Mayor Bob Filner. A strong proponent of marijuana use for medicinal purposes, the mayor has effectively stopped enforcement of the city’s zoning laws as they pertain to dispensaries. That has led to a renewed proliferation of dispensaries throughout the city after more than 100 were shuttered through city prosecutions during the previous two years.

The bottom line is dispensaries aren’t legally permissible in any land-use zone in the city, and those that are open are in violation. Dozens of complaints have been filed with the city, yet no action has been taken since January when Filner ordered police and code compliance officers to stop investigating dispensaries.

Filner backtracked a few weeks later and issued a statement Jan. 29 with City Council President Todd Gloria and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith saying a new ordinance is coming but until it’s adopted no dispensaries would be allowed.

“In order to preserve the status quo, the current zoning laws will be enforced,” they wrote. “Dispensaries should not open in violation of existing laws.”

Despite that statement, the city isn’t enforcing the law. The City Attorney’s Office hasn’t prosecuted a single dispensary since January because no cases have been forwarded by the Police Department or Neighborhood Code Compliance, both of which investigate complaints and are under Filner’s purview.

A U-T San Diego reporter obtained a list of medical marijuana dispensaries and visited them last week. Fifteen were open for business in the neighborhoods of La Jolla, North Park, Pacific Beach, Point Loma and University Heights. None of the owners or managers were willing to be interviewed.

Ryan Collier, a volunteer at Patient Med Aid in Pacific Beach, said dispensaries have always worried about crackdowns by federal authorities, but there is less concern now that the city will come knocking on their doors.

“We finally have a mayor who understands, is a little more educated on the issue,” he said.

Collier later added that the city needs to stop delaying and set the rules. “It seems like a lack of the city doing its job. You know we voted for this. Obviously, the people want it, so make an ordinance. It’s not up to us. It’s up to them to make an ordinance.”

Filner didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday and Friday. He has repeatedly insisted that he is enforcing the law despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Alex Kreit, a Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor who chaired the city’s Medical Marijuana Task Force, said the current state of unregulated dispensaries could provide the “kick in the pants” the City Council needs to finally adopt an ordinance that sets forth clear rules and regulations for the businesses. He also noted city leaders created this situation by not acting sooner.


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