The San Diego City Attorney is going after marijuana dispensaries that are within 600 feet of schools. This legal maneuver may very well force the closure of the Newport Avenue herb shop – which is on the 4800 block of the main business street in Ocean Beach, as it is within half a block or so of OB Elementary. The Wellness Center is located approximately at mid-block, and presumably is within the distance that Goldsmith abhors.
Jan Goldsmith, the City Attorney, filed civil complaints against a dozen dispensaries on Wednesday, September 21st. Goldsmith is requesting injunctions against the pot collectives for what he calls flouting city zoning laws “in a manner that puts our children at great risk.” “We are asking the court to shut them down now,” Goldsmith declared.
The Newport Avenue dispensary is just one; others are located throughout San Diego, including the College Area and Hillcrest.
Local NBC reports that:
Since August 2010, about 30 marijuana dispensaries have been shut down because of the city attorney’s office involvement, demand letters or court action. The attorney’s office hopes that all or most of the dispensaries will be brought before San Diego Superior Court.
“It will take some time to bring large numbers of dispensaries before the court. We will continue with our next group of filings shortly and more will follow thereafter,” Goldsmith said. “Although we realize not all will necessarily be shut down immediately, we and the community are turning to the courts to help us get a handle on this problem.”
The San Diego U-T reported this incredible statement by Goldsmith:
“We have an untenable situation right now and a lot of policy conflicts. Marijuana distribution is illegal under federal law. If the federal government enforces its laws, there can be serious consequences to dispensaries and the owners of their buildings. Yet, medicinal marijuana is legal under state law under certain circumstances. In the city of San Diego, dispensaries aren’t permitted in any zone.”
Here is more from Christopher Catelango at the U-T:
The Development Services Department is responsible for interpreting and applying the city’s zoning ordinances. In 2009, department officials determined that medical marijuana dispensaries don’t fit within any of the existing zones.
Complaints to code officers are forwarded for review to the City Attorney’s Office. After rescission of the ordinance, the circumstances reverted to the previous standard that no dispensaries are allowed to operate within the city limits, Goldsmith said. ….
Lawyers for the dispensaries said their clients’ collectives could fit within zones relating to pharmacies, medical offices, commercial distribution centers, wholesale distributions centers and agriculture. And, even if they could not, the city could not legally ban or prohibit them under state law.
John Murphy, another attorney representing patients’ associations, has said the city’s position amounts to a de facto ban.
Under the law, Goldsmith said a judge could craft interim rules that would shut down violators while respecting state laws. “We are looking to the courts for help on this issue as there really is nowhere else to turn,” he said. “Exercising judicial discretion can help our community deal with this issue.”