Suddenly, a little-known, often-avoided area in the Midway community has a great, big bulls-eye on it.
Under a new ordinance passed by the San Diego City Council in February, medical marijuana dispensaries will be restricted to a very few commercial and industrial zones, and will be further limited to four storefronts for each of the nine council districts. Most of the 60 or so currently operating storefronts won’t be able to legally stay open.
In Ocean Beach and Point Loma, no zoning exists for allowing dispensaries. But an industrial zone tucked away behind the strip clubs and other businesses on West Camino Del Rio and south of Interstate 8 may soon be known for something other than warehouses, auto-related businesses and street parking for homeless RV owners.
Two prospective storefront owners who say they want to provide safe access to medical marijuana are casting an eager eye on the area. They introduced themselves April 16 at the monthly meeting of the Midway Community Planning Group.
The two hopefuls are Joy Greenfield, who owns the two-story building at 3421 Hancock St.; and Kyle Castanon, who wants to lease a storefront at 3584 Hancock St., currently the site of Total Secure Shredding.
The race is on because it’s likely only one property may obtain a coveted conditional-use permit. The new rules don’t permit two storefronts to be within 1,000 feet of each other.
The process for obtaining a permit is estimated to take about six to eight months, said Tait Galloway, city senior planner. Neither party has a completed application for the Planning Group to consider yet, but with permits in such short supply, both wanted to get a head start and gauge support.
Greenfield said she opened Light the Way Cooperative on her property several years ago because statements made by the Obama administration convinced her the federal government would not interfere with medical marijuana. After a few years of operation, she said she complied with a letter ordering her to close.
She said she learned about the medicinal properties of marijuana first hand. She smoked pot in the 1970s as a treatment for glaucoma, but now prefers juicing the leaves.
“Medical marijuana is my passion. It’s such a powerful prescription,” Greenfield said.
She said she was a director at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and her background in hospital administration gave her a good working knowledge of health issues.
Like Greenfield, Castanon also said he became a believer in medical marijuana from personal experience. After suffering severe burns on his stomach following an accident, he found relief by applying a marijuana salve to the wounds.
“It was the only thing that worked to treat that deep pain,” he said.
He opened a nonprofit cooperative in Riverside County in 2010, growing the plants on his parents’ property for friends and family. He said his experience as a master distiller in the liquor industry inspired an interest in formulating varieties of pot with different ratios of medicinal compounds.
Many of the plants he breeds have virtually no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that makes the user high; because some formulations require higher concentrations of other medicinal compounds. The operation is all-organic, he said.
Castanon said even though the law permits sale to any adult with a doctor’s recommendation, he would usually restrict sales to people over 21. He said he’s concerned with reports of high school seniors reselling pot at school.
The problem of diverting medical marijuana to recreational use can also be combated by good tracking software and practices, he said.
“The law allows one-half pound of possession, and most shops interpret that to mean you can buy half a pound at a time. So you have people coming in every other day buying half a pound of medicine. It’s giving everyone in the industry a bad name,” Castanon said.
Galloway said once the city deems a permit application complete, it will come before the planning group for a recommendation. Planning group members said they would examine issues such as parking, safety, traffic and signage; and would not attempt to judge the character of the applicant.
“Our purview is land use,” said Melanie Nickel, planning group chair. “We’re relying on the city to (vet the applicants) for us. We can’t do background checks.”
In other news:
- An application for a cellular tower that includes 12 panel antennas and a microwave dish is in the works at 3555 Rosecrans St., Nickel said.
- The city has sent out a request for proposals to build a long-awaited public pool in Liberty Station, said Thyme Curtis, representative for District 2 City Councilman Ed Harris. Deadline is June 13, said Curtis, who is only working for Harris for a transitional period and will join Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s staff May 12.
- The notion that the Midway community gets treated as something of an ugly duckling was underscored by the recent crop of candidates that asked for the appointment to fill the rest of Faulconer’s term for District 2 city council. That’s the assessment of Planning Group member Cathy Kenton, who watched the hearing last month in which the City Council eventually choose Ed Harris. She said: “I was extremely disappointed in every one of the candidates because the only areas they talked about were Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Peninsula. There was not one candidate who even acknowledged that Midway was a part of District 2.”