Patients and Medical Marijuana Consumer Cooperative Hopefuls Reach out to Neighborhood Planning Leaders

San Diego, CA – In an on-going campaign to open dialog in San Diego communities about medical marijuana consumer cooperatives (MMCCs), patients, advocates and MMCC permit applicants have been attending Community Planning Groups (CPGs), arguably the first stop on what will be a months long process to safe access of medical cannabis in the city of San Diego under the new MMCC zoning ordinance.

Last week, San Diego Americans for Safe Access met with Lynne Sandoval, a retired medical cannabis patient who contacted us with a desire to attend the Community Planning Group that serves her neighborhood. The North Park CPG is in District 3 and calls itself the North Park Planning Committee (NPPC). Lynne knew that her CPG is the forum citizens use to voice their opinions and concerns about land use in order to create change in their communities. Lynne is concerned there are no zones in her community for an MMCC to open and she wants to work to change that.

Community Planning Groups have a long history of advising San Diego City Council, the Planning Commission, and other decision-makers on development projects, general or community plan amendments, re-zonings and public facilities. There are over 25 officially recognized CPGs scattered around the city of San Diego. The CPGs are beholden to the open government of the Brown Act and are an excellent place to begin dialog about the shortage of approved zones for MMCCs as well as a place to advocate for patients who have applied to open MMCCs in allowable zones, as is the case in other districts.

When Lynne and I walked into the NPPC meeting at North Park Christian Fellowship Church we found a panel of about 13 people who make up the board of the NPPC as well as a galley of citizens. The Chair, Vicki Granowitz began the meeting with a few updates. This particular community was rocked by a medical marijuana consumer cooperative robbery and Ms. Granowitz spoke on the health of the establishment’s security guard and prospect of catching the final robbery suspect.

The meeting was opened to non-agenda public comment and after greeting and thanking the NPPC Board, Lynne’s public comment touched on three main points: how important safe and local access to medical cannabis is to her, that she has seen MMCCs working very well in her neighborhood and that she understands the purpose of the CPG system is to voice her opinions and have a say about land use in her neighborhood. Lynne also pointed the CPG Board to the Americans for Safe Access website for information on safe access and neighborhoods, medical studies and the various reports on legislating safe access to medical cannabis locally.

Lynne asked the Board to follow up with her. She is planning on attending the meeting again and will continue the dialog about how MMCCs can fit into the neighborhood of North Park.

The City of San Diego’s recently passed medical marijuana ordinance did open MMCC zones in other districts, including District two. That district has several recognized CPGs and one of them, the Midway/Pacific Highway Community Planning Group held their meeting on May 21st. San Diego ASA attended the MPH CPG meeting and found several medical cannabis patients there advocating for MMCC projects. Many of those patients were MMCC applicants themselves. The applicants are hoping to get a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to open an MMCC at properties they are linked with and were there with various legal and land use representatives to begin that process.

Melanie Nickel, the Chair of the MPH CPG began by saying there would be no vote on Conditional Use Permits for the MMCC applicants that night because the CUP paperwork has not yet come to them via the City’s Development Services Department. DSD is the city entity tasked with overseeing the permitting process for the applicants.

Ms. Nickel called on Tracy Cambre of Councilmember Ed Harris’ office to update the MMCC applicants and patient advocates on District two’s MMCC applicant status. Ms. Cambre told us District two has 19 applicants scattered throughout, all are under what she called a completeness review and have not moved to the CUP process yet. She added that CUPs are at least six months away.

Ms. Nickel said she expected about eight MMCC applicants to come through the MPH CPG and the understanding was the group would be tasked with looking at issues such as parking, traffic effects and other considerations but would not be charting sensitive use issues, saying that would be left up to the DSD. Ms. Nickel said she did not expect to be able to handle the MMCC CUP applicants in one meeting and suggested June 4th or the 11th for a special meeting to discuss giving their recommendations to the city.

Three MMCC applicants and their representatives spoke about their projects and answered a few questions from the board and citizens. My impression was the patients wanting to provide safe access to San Diego in the area of the Midway/Pacific Highway Community Planning Group are a fine group of professional people. I appreciated hearing their introductions and willingness to work with the community. The spirit of cooperation was apparent and the board is taking this issue seriously, evidenced by their plan to schedule a meeting to address the CUPs so quickly.

An article posted yesterday by David Garrick of UT San Diego reports on the finer nuance of what the CUP process looks like and lists the fortunate districts that have MMCC applicants. Mr. Garrick also does a good job of highlighting the gap in safe access for which the ordinance has been criticized and for which SDASA works to change.

If you live in the city of San Diego and want to attend your CPG meeting, we are willing to help you prepare and we can attend with you. Many neighborhoods are left without safe access under the city’s MMCC land use ordinance. We need to get neighborhood land use leaders’ buy-in to change that. Additionally, MMCC applicants need our help advocating for permission to open in areas that are allowed but still subject to approval. Please email if you would like to help medical cannabis patients have a voice in San Diego communities!

By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access

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