By Robert Kahn / Courthouse News Service
Marijuana patients claim in court that San Diego and the California Coastal Commission will foul the air, snarl traffic and force people to grow marijuana indoors, wasting energy and increasing global warming, because of their wrongheaded decision to allow no more than 36 marijuana co-ops in the city.
The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients sued the Coastal Commission and San Diego on Aug. 1, in San Diego County Court.
The rather bizarre and quite technical complaint challenges the Coastal Commission’s June 11 approval of a San Diego city ordinance of March 25, which authorized medical marijuana co-ops in the city.
The zoning-oriented ordinance allows medical marijuana co-ops only in certain industrial and commercial zones, and requires buffer zones between co-ops and residential areas.
“The ordinance caps the total number of cooperatives at 36 and places a limit of four per Council District,” the Los Angeles-based Union of Medical Marijuana Patients says in the lawsuit. But because of the zoning restrictions, the union says, only 30 pot stores are “even possible” under the law.
This “extremely restrictive approach” will require “thousands of patients to drive across the City of San Diego to obtain their medicine because cooperatives are only allowed in certain limited places in the city, which will create traffic and air pollution,” the lawsuit states.
It claims that the Coastal Commission, which had to approve the City Council ordinance under the California Environmental Quality Act, “failed to analyze the reasonably foreseeable consequences of increased indoor cultivation of medical marijuana” because of the restrictive zoning.
“Petitioner informed the Commission that patients might cultivate their own medicine in their homes if a cooperative failed to obtain its CUP [Conditional Use Permit] or relocated far from where its patients resided,” the complaint states.
The 14-page lawsuit is replete with interesting numbers about medical marijuana in San Diego.
It states, inter alia:
- that when the City Council approved the ordinance “there were an estimated 26,451 medical marijuana patients in the city and 30 storefront cooperatives operating in the city (not to mention groups of people that cultivate and share medical marijuana outside of a storefront setting who would nevertheless be defined as a ‘cooperative’ under the Ordinance);”
- that “Based on the existing patient base, existing patients may establish up to 26,451 home cultivation sites in the city to meet their personal needs if the cooperatives are significantly reduced in number or fail to obtain a CUP from the city;”
- that “Assuming each patient uses 1 ounce of marijuana per month, then 19,838 pounds of cannabis per year would need to be cultivated to meet patient needs in the city;”
- that “On average, approximately one third of cannabis production takes place under indoor conditions. Approximately two-thirds of all cannabis is produced outdoors. In California, 400,000 individuals are authorized to cultivate cannabis for personal medical use, or sale for the same purpose to 2,100 dispensaries;”
- that “One average kilogram of cannabis is associated with 4,600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions (greenhouse-gas pollution) to the atmosphere, a very significant carbon footprint, or that of 3 million average U.S. cars when aggregated across all national production;”
- that “Indoor cannabis production results in electricity use equivalent to that of 2 million average U.S. homes. This corresponds to 1 percent of national electricity consumption;”
- that “In California, the top-producing state, indoor cultivation is responsible for about 3 percent of all electricity use or 9 percent of household use. This corresponds to greenhouse-gas emissions equal to those from 1 million cars;”
- and that “Accelerated electricity demand growth has been observed in areas reputed to have extensive indoor cannabis cultivation. For example, after the legalization of medical marijuana in 1996, Humboldt County experienced a 50 percent rise in per-capita residential electricity use compared to other parts of the state.”
The union claims that it is “reasonably foreseeable” that indoor pot gardens will increase due to the restrictive ordinance. This will increase wastewater, biowaste (stems, presumably), and electrical consumption, environmental impacts “which the Commission failed to appreciate.”
The union claims the defendants failed to conduct an adequate environmental assessment of their plan, which is required by CEQA, and it wants the approval of the plan set aside until it complies with CEQA, and costs.
Learned counsel for the plaintiffs is Jamie T. Hall, with the Channel Law Group, of Long Beach, assisted by Julian K. Quattlebaum.