Civil cases against medical marijuana dispensary owners to continue

New zoning law for dispensaries expected soon

SAN DIEGO - The City Council Tuesday directed City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to continue prosecuting 11 civil cases against the owners of medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego, in order to maintain the status quo while a new zoning law that would allow collectives to operate legally is formulated.

Assistant City Attorney Mary Jo Lanzafame announced that the council voted 6-0 "to direct the city attorney not to dismiss the subject cases, that the mayor will enforce existing law," and for the mayor and city attorney to quickly draft a new zoning law for dispensaries.

The vote took place after the City Attorney's Office updated the mayor's office and council members on the status of the cases in closed session and requested direction.

Earlier this month, Mayor Bob Filner ordered the San Diego Police Department and Neighborhood Compliance Office to stop targeted enforcement of dispensaries. Code violations found in routine inspections could still be cited, he said.

In a joint statement, Mayor Bob Filner, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and council President Todd Gloria said they would bring a zoning ordinance to the City Council similar to what was passed two years ago.

That law allowed dispensaries to operate in the city, but included zoning requirements to keep them away from residences, parks and schools. Medical marijuana advocates felt the laws were too restrictive and collected enough signatures to get them rescinded.

That move, however, had the effect of making the dispensaries illegal and most of them have been shut down in the city.

The mayor said he would try to get a draft ordinance to the City Council within 30 days.

"As I've said before, I want those who legitimately need medical marijuana for the relief of pain to have access to it legally," Filner said. "That is the compassionate thing to do."

Goldsmith said he appreciated the mayor's leadership in moving the city toward a solution on dispensaries.

Gloria said the vote and commitments from the mayor and City Attorney were a "critical step forward for patients seeking safe access and for neighborhoods concerned about the  impacts of dispensaries."

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