Fact. The city of San Diego has stopped issuing medical marijuana dispensary permits.
What confused me when I wrote that blog post on Monday was how the city had done it. In July, city Development Services Director Kelly Broughton wrote a memo stating the city had stopped issuing permits because it was unclear where, if anywhere, medical marijuana dispensaries fit in the city’s zoning rules.
Yet later that month, City Councilman Todd Gloria said the city wasn’t considering a moratorium on dispensaries.
So what gives?
Gloria’s office gave me a statement that I quoted in my blog post. But I received many more details when Gloria and I spoke Monday night.
There’s a difference, Gloria said, between a “moratorium” and a “suspension.” The full City Council would have to vote on a moratorium, which Gloria said would enact more limits on dispensaries than the current suspension. The suspension, for example, doesn’t affect the eight dispensaries that are permitted already in the city.
Asked if he agreed with the city’s suspension, Gloria replied, “I understand why they did it. The fact is our land development code is not perfect for this particular issue.”
Gloria and I also discussed a task force on medical marijuana issues that was approved at July’s Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee. The task force still needs the full City Council’s blessing, but issues like resolving the zoning category for dispensaries would fall under its purview, Gloria said.
He expected the task force to need up to a year to finish its work. The suspension on dispensary permits — there were 30 in the city’s pipeline as of late July — could last that long as well, he said.
For further clarification on “moratorium” versus “suspension,” I contacted the City Attorney’s Office. In a statement, a city attorney spokeswoman confirmed a “moratorium” would need council approval. The Development Services Department followed procedure once it determined dispensaries didn’t fit into an existing zoning category, the statement added.
Other local municipalities have taken varying approaches toward blocking dispensaries. A quick stroll through the U-T archives from the past couple of months: Santee has temporarily banned dispensaries; El Cajon says dispensaries aren’t permitted under zoning rules; Imperial Beach has imposed a moratorium; San Diego County has a moratorium in unincorporated areas; National City has a moratorium; Chula Vista has a moratorium; Escondido has a moratorium.