Medical Marijuana Task Force Recommendations – Explained

By: Eugene Davidovich, 12/12/2009

In October of this year the San Diego City Council voted to establish a Medical Marijuana Task Force to advise the council on: (1) guidelines for medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers; (2) guidelines for the structure and operation of medical marijuana cooperatives and/or collectives; and (3) guidelines for police department enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

After five meetings, community input, and open debate, the San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force (MMTF) has completed the first part of their undertaking and strongly recommends that in order to ensure that qualified patients have safe access to their lawfully recommend medicine the City Council adopt the task force’s recommendations.

On December 8, 2009, Alex Kreit, Chair of the MMTF will present recommendations to the city council. The Final Draft of the recommendations was completed on November 12, 2009 and includes:

Permitting Process

The task force will recommend that all collectives and cooperatives in San Diego with less than 100 members will be required to apply for Process 2 conditional use permit in accordance with Chapter 11 Article 02 Division 05 of the San Diego Municipal Code. Facilities with 100 or more members will be required to apply for a Process 3 conditional use permit as described in the same section of the San Diego Municipal code.
Overview of Process Two / Three (Diagram 112-05A – San Diego Municipal Code)process

In order for a conditional use permit to be approved, the decision maker, in both cases the San Diego City Planning Commission will have to find that:

  • The proposed development will not adversely affect the applicable land use plan;
  • The proposed development will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare;
  • The proposed development will comply to the maximum extent feasible with the regulations of the Land Development Code; and
  • The proposed use is appropriate at the proposed location.

Permitting Renewal and Expiration

The task force did not recommend a specific time frame for which a permit of type may be issued. Instead, recommended that the renewal and expiration of each of the conditional use permits be done in accordance with Chapter 12 Article 6 Division 3 of the San Diego Municipal Code which states that the decision maker, in this case the planning commission may assign an expiration date to the permit.


The following zones are recommended by the task force as appropriate uses of land in the city; Commercial – Regional (CR), Commercial – Office (CO), Commercial – Community (CC), Commercial – Neighborhood (CN), Commercial – Visitor (CV), Industrial – Park (IP), Industrial – Light (IL) and Industrial – Heavy (IH). Each of the zones is described in Chapter 13 of the San Diego Municipal Code

Distance Requirements

The Task Force will recommends that all collectives and cooperatives shall not be located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, and youth facilities, including youth hostels, youth camps, youth clubs, and other similar uses. Collectives and Cooperatives also may not be located within 500 feet of other collectives and cooperatives..

Not for Profit Operation

If the recommendations are adopted by the task force all dispensing collectives and cooperatives as part of the Conditional Use Permit application will be required to submit proof that they are incorporated as a statutory cooperative or bona fide nonprofit corporation, or can provide documentation describing the not-for-profit manner in which they will be operating. The following document from the California Business Programs Division describes how to form a Non Profit corporation in the State of California, as well as provides filing instructions and sample bylaws:


The security recommendations include a requirement for all collectives and cooperatives to maintain adequate security systems including cameras, alarms, and a licensed security guard. The security guard must hold a valid “Guard Card”. Here is a fact sheet by The California Bureau of Security ad Investigative Services which describes the requirements and procedures for obtaining a “Guard Card”

Lighting and Hours of Operation

The Task Force will recommend that all collectives and cooperatives provide adequate lighting to illuminate the immediate surrounding areas, storage areas, the parking lot, the front façade, and any adjoining public sidewalk. In addition all lighting will have to be hooded or oriented away from adjacent properties.

Hours of operation are recommended to be limited to 7:00am to 9:00pm seven days per week.


Signage of each collective and cooperative in the city will have to comply with the current San Diego City Signage Ordinance Chapter 14 Article 2 Division 12 of the San Diego Municipal Code. In addition to normal signage requirements, all collectives and cooperatives will be limited to using two colors and only displaying the name and design on the signage.

All collectives and cooperatives will be required to display on their wall a sign with the name and emergency contact phone number of the operator or manager in letters at least 2 inches in height.

The following warning sign is also required to be posted indoors in a conspicuous location:

  1. The diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes is a violation of state law.
  2. The use of medical marijuana may impair a person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery.
  3. Loitering on and around the collective / cooperative site is prohibited by California Penal Code section 647(e).

The task force is expected to reconvene in the beginning of next year to deliberate on the remaining issues pertaining to guidelines for medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers and guidelines for police department enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

The main concern of many in the community who support regulations, is that the Planning Commission is the last link in the decision making process for the conditional use permits and may deny all permit applications. On November 5, 2009 the planning commission met to hear the application for a conditional use permit by New Earth Beginnings Cooperative and was planning on denying it until the applicant withdrew the application. The agenda and the recommendation for denial can be seen in Item-8 of the Planning Commission’s agenda for that day.

Many in the community welcome the recommendations of the task force and with caution and optimism and are looking forward to a fair regulatory process for dispensing collectives and cooperatives.



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