San Diego City Council Repeals Medical Marijuana Restrictions

The Council could have chosen to put the issue to a public vote.

In a 6-2 vote Monday, the San Diego City Council repealed restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries approved in April but challenged by a voter referendum.

With the vote, the city avoids spending an estimated $840,000 to put the issue on the June 2012 ballot, or the $3-million plus to hold a special election. The potential cost was cited by some council members, and public speakers, as reason to repeal.

Some council members said a vote wouldn't help clarify the many issues surrounding the ordinance, which he said he voted against in April because it didn't go far enough with its regulations.

The ordinance, among other restrictions, limits medical marijuana dispensaries to being at least 600 feet away from parks. Since the ordinance was passed in April, opponents gathered more than 44,000 signatures for a referendum that required the City Council to repeal the measure or turn it over to voters. The City Clerk on Monday officially presented to the Council a certification of the 31,029 verified signatures required for the referendum to move forward.

Many public speakers took the podium at Monday's City Council meeting, some calling for an outright ban on dispensaries, others asking for fewer restrictions in the ordinance which they consider a defacto ban.

It was this mix of public opinion, Councilmember Carl DeMaio said, that shows a public vote on the ordinance as-is wouldn't be informative because it wouldn't indicate how people feel. Some people signed the referendum because they want more restrictions while others signed it because they want fewer, he said.

A public vote on the ordinance would be a "confused vote," DeMaio said.

The City Council can take steps to pass another ordinance, but it must be different from the now-repealed medical marijuana restrictions. What constitutes different is unclear, City Attorney's Office staff said Monday. Otherwise, the Council would need to wait at least a year to vote on an ordinance similar to the one approved in April.

A ban would likely be considered "essentially different," said Catherine Bradley, chief deputy city attorney.

Councilmembers Marti Emerald and Tony Young cast the two votes opposing the repeal, with Emerald saying she thought it was an important issue that should go before voters. Young said he did not want to send the message that laws would be repealed simply because it would be too costly to put them on the ballot.

- Article originally from Mount Helix Patch.


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