The San Diego County communities of Mesa and Lemon Grove are sorting out the legalities and best practices as medical marijuana dispensaries look to set up shop.

Voters in both cities approved measures last November that will allow the businesses within city limits.

Measure U in La Mesa and Measure V in Lemon Grove have required cities to update municipal codes and create a permit process.

La Mesa has begun accepting applications for dispensaries, with business hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Lemon Grove will start taking applications next week, and cited hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

By the end of February, 12 applications for conditional-use permits had been filed: three locations on University Avenue, three on El Cajon Boulevard, two on Center Street, two on La Mesa Boulevard and two on Parkway Drive.

Applications for permits to cultivate medical marijuana have been requested at two sites on Center Street. One of those sites has also requested to be a manufacturing site.

La Mesa has not decided on how many dispensaries it will allow in the city of nearly 59,000. Zoning, distance from sensitive areas and availability of land will determine that number.

There will be a maximum of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Lemon Grove, with a population of just over 26,000.

Lemon Grove will charge $150 for an initial compliance check of zoning clearance, and $1,500 for conditional-use permit. There will also be an annual inspection fee in an amount to be determined, plus additional fees for sheriff and fire services, if required. There will be no on-site medical consultation allowed.

Measure V in Lemon Grove also authorizes the city to collect a quarterly fee per patient, which has yet to be determined.

Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero said the city will look at applications in the order they are submitted, and they will be processed as with any other permit request.

Romero said she felt that the earliest a dispensary would open in Lemon Grove would be in late summer.

In both cities, dispensaries will be kept away from sensitive areas including schools, licensed day care centers, parks, playgrounds, and alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers.

Neither city will collect sales tax because under state law, medical marijuana is not subject to taxation.

La Mesa has OK’d indoor marijuana plant growing, but is likely to ban people from growing it outdoors. The city is also considering a requirement that those who want to grow plants must register in a database.

In Lemon Grove, cultivation of medical marijuana for personal use by a qualified patient will be allowed in private residences with certain restrictions:

  • Pot cultivation can only be in an enclosed structure that can be secured and locked
  • A qualified patient must live in the residence where the marijuana is grown
  • The cultivation and processing of marijuana can not be visible from outside.

Proposition 64, which also passed last year, legalized recreational marijuana use. But it allows cities to ban recreational pot shops, which Lemon Grove and La Mesa have done.

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