A package of regulations for marijuana-related businesses in San Diego was approved by the City Council. The rules that will go into effect after a 6-3 vote don't involve retail dispensaries, but the "supply chain" establishments that handle cultivation, manufacturing and testing. Separate regulations for the 11 legal dispensaries in San Diego are already in effect.

The council declined to enact a tougher option that would have prohibited anything beyond testing of marijuana and related products in laboratories in industrial zones and commercial zones that prohibit residential uses.  The approved regulations allow testing plus cultivation, distribution and production of marijuana and related products if the business operator obtains a conditional use permit. The activities would be allowed in light and heavy industrial zones.  That option also originally limited such facilities to a maximum of two per council district, but an amendment proposed by Councilman Chris Ward expanded the cap to a total of 40 citywide.  The rules are in response to voter approval of Proposition 64 in the November election to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. 

"I liken this discussion where we're going on cannabis to our own craft beer industry," Ward said. "Similar issues existed then and exist today with land use constraints and the manufacturing and distribution activity concentrated in certain districts." "Would we tell Stone Brewery that we wanted them to actually manufacture everything in Riverside County and truck it down? Would we tell Ballast Point they can only grow their hops up in Humboldt?"

While San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman and other opponents expressed concern about the impact on crime, Ward said he was confident there would be no detrimental impact on public safety.  However, Zimmerman said the legal dispensaries have called police for 272 incidents ranging from burglaries and robberies to shootings.  Public speakers on both sides offered statistics supporting their views on Colorado's experience with legalized marijuana, from drug-related DUIs to health impacts on youth.  

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who voted against the regulations, said it was interesting that everyone who spoke out for easier regulations had a financial interest in the marijuana industry.  Mothers, people who talk to users, a mental health and substance abuse professional spoke out on behalf of tougher restrictions, she said.  

"We were elected, if nothing else, to oversee public safety, and I think we're just absolutely going down the wrong road," Zapf said.  Councilman Chris Cate added amendments that will require a sign to be  posted where the public can obtain contact information for an operator or manager of the business, for litter and graffiti to be removed immediately and for employees convicted of crimes of moral turpitude to be reported immediately to the city.  Cate proposed a longer series of regulations for non-retail marijuana businesses last month. Those will be considered at a later time.  

According to the City Attorney's Office, marijuana businesses will need to comply with the new regulations within one year or cease operations.Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who voted with the majority, gave the operators of such establishments a dose of reality when she said the regulations will evolve over time. A long series of rules proposed by Cate last month will be considered by the council in the coming months.  Separate issues over labor and marijuana delivery services will also be discussed in the future.


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