SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego passed regulations Tuesday to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to legally operate in the city.
The City Council voted 8-1 in favor of new zoning laws allowing up to 30 pot shops in some commercial and industrial areas, U-T San Diego reported (http://bit.ly/1cP2g4x ). The move is a step toward culminating a yearslong tug-of-war between patient advocates and those fearing harmful effects on neighborhoods and comes after the council rejected loose restrictions last April.
Councilman Mark Kersey was the only dissenter, saying he couldn't support the plan because the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The ordinance limits four dispensaries to each of the city's nine council districts, and the pot shops must be 1,000 feet from each other and from schools, parks, churches and other facilities. No more than 30 can open because three of the districts had fewer than four possible locations under the new rules, according to a San Diego Association of Governments analysis.
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria pushed to get the measure approved before Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer takes over on Monday.
"This ordinance provides clear and fair rules which will result in access to medical marijuana for legitimate San Diego patients and safeguard neighborhoods from negative impacts associated with dispensaries," Gloria told the newspaper.
The vote came after two hours of public testimony. Medical marijuana advocates shared stories of suffering from illnesses that only the drug could ease and said the rules provided some safe access for patients.
Supporter Lynn Redeman urged the council to address the issue because it's not going away.
"I'm only asking the City Council to think logically, give this motion a chance, think positive, give it strict guidelines and give it a chance," Redeman said.
Opponents spoke of concerns about increased crime and drug use by teenagers.
Dr. Matthew Carroll, a psychiatrist, said the typical medical marijuana patients he's seen are healthy people claiming to have anxiety.
"If we pass this ordinance and say it's OK, what we're doing is de facto legalization," Carroll said. "One hundred percent of adults can walk in and get a prescription."
The vote helps wind down a five-year battle in the city over medical marijuana. After the council passed a strict law in 2011, pot advocates launched a petition drive to put the measure before voters. Officials pulled the law rather than paying for an election. The next year, then-Mayor Bob Filner told police to allow dispensaries to operate illegally in the city. After Filner resigned in August amid a sexual harassment scandal, Gloria ended that policy.
The California Coastal Commission now must approve the measure. It's expected to decide within the next few months.