San Diego would regulate cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana more aggressively than the state under a long list of rules proposed on Thursday by City Councilman Chris Cate.
They include outlawing any signs on such businesses, requiring them to have a “positive impact” on the surrounding community and mandating they have a round-the-clock liaison to respond to any complaints.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]Those proposals and several others go beyond state law, but Cate is also proposing some city rules that either duplicate state law or address issues where the state hasn’t adopted regulations but is expected to do so soon.
Those include restricting use of flammable gases, requiring all employees to wear laminated picture ID badges and quickly notifying police when drugs or other inventory goes missing.
Cate’s proposed regulations come less than three weeks before the City Council is scheduled on Sept. 11 to discuss for the first time a separate set of regulations proposed by the city’s planning staff.
Propelled partly by state voters legalizing recreational marijuana last November, San Diego is one of the only cities in the region that has signaled it may allow cultivation, manufacturing and testing of the drug.
But despite the council expressing a willingness to consider that option, it’s not clear whether a majority of the nine-member council will end up agreeing to legalize those activities.
The council approved legalized sales of medical marijuana at permitted dispensaries in 2014, and decided last winter that those dispensaries can also begin selling recreational pot after state regulations are finalized in January.
Marijuana proponents say it only makes economic sense to allow a local supply chain to develop for the 16 dispensaries the city has approved.
A summary of the regulations proposed by city staff for cultivation, manufacturing and testing has been posted on the city’s website since July, but details haven’t been made available to the public.
The summary prompted complaints from the local marijuana industry that some of the regulations were too strict, particularly a plan to limit the number of cultivation and manufacturing businesses to two per City Council district — or 18 maximum in the city.
Since then, industry and city officials have been discussing possibly replacing that with a citywide cap instead of a maximum number per district.
That could disproportionately affect Cate’s north central district, because Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa have a significant amount of industrially zoned acreage where many marijuana cultivation and manufacturing businesses could locate.
Cate, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said on Thursday that his proposals aim to keep the public safe if a new industry is allowed to operate in the city.
“My top priority during these deliberations is to ensure that marijuana-related businesses are well regulated in order to guarantee that they are operating safely and in a manner that promotes public safety,” Cate said.
He sent a seven-page memo on Thursday to Mayor Kevin Faulconer summarizing his proposed regulations.
Two local marijuana industry attorneys said the proposals seem like mostly positive steps and well-meaning ideas.
But they also raised some concerns, and said it would probably make more sense for the city to simply have rules that mirror state regulations.
“I think a lot of these ideas are very positive in the abstract, but not detailed enough at this point to determine if they are actually feasible,” Gina Austin said.
In addition, Cate’s proposal to single out marijuana businesses as the only ones in the city not allowed to have signs could violate the First Amendment, she said.
Austin also questioned a rule against exhaust and ventilation from the businesses if there is housing nearby, contending that could prevent some manufacturing and cultivation businesses from opening.
“You have a lot of residential non-conforming uses in industrial zones,” she said.
Cate’s proposals would also give the city’s fire marshal the authority to approve permits for marijuana businesses based on the ingredients they use and their manufacturing protocol, which Austin said goes beyond the marshal’s knowledge.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “It opens the door to a level of discretion that I don’t think the local fire marshal should have, because they could simply deny every single one of them.”
Kimberly Simms, another marijuana attorney, objected to Cate’s proposal to bar from the local industry anyone with a felony conviction in the last five years.
She said that could disproportionately affect minorities who are more frequently charged with drug crimes, suggesting Cate should only bar people with felony convictions involving violence or business-related conduct.
Simms also raised concerns about Cate proposing marijuana businesses conduct aggressive public outreach and submit plans detailing how they would have a positive impact on the community.
“It’s super subjective and it opens up the city to a level of review that I don’t think they want to wade into,” Simms said.
Austin, however, said she was fine with those elements of the proposal.
“They don’t seem crazy over the top to me,” she said. “Most of the clients I work with in San Diego and other cities already do that, because it’s such a controversial topic that you want community buy-in.”
But Austin said the proposal also has a fundamental problem.
Cate proposes businesses get a state license before they receive one from the city, but she said it’s almost certain that state regulations will flip that by requiring city approval first.
The United Medical Marijuana Coalition, a group of local dispensary owners, also raised concerns.
“Of significant concern are items in this proposal which appear to introduce subjectivity into a process that has always operated effectively because of its objectivity,” the group said in a statement. “We’re concerned this approach may make the permit-approval process subject to manipulation and undue influence by disreputable cannabis businesses. That should concern San Diego taxpayers who value a fair, open and transparent process.”
The council’s Sept. 11 hearing was initially scheduled for July 31, but a request was delayed by local cannabis consultant Lani Lutar and Mickey Kasparian, head of a new umbrella labor group known as the Working Families Council.
Lutar said in July that the goal of the delay was ensuring new regulations help San Diego maximize tax revenue and the economic boost of marijuana legalization, and that the regulations prioritize working families, the environment and the safety of residents.
© 2017 San Diego Union Tribune, www.sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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