Here we go again. Another application for a medical marijuana facility will be heard today by the county Planning Commission — the third such proposal since 2007. That’s when the county passed an ordinance allowing dispensaries in unincorporated areas, though only under strict conditions.
The first two applications — one in Templeton and the other in Nipomo — were denied.
Unless the Planning Commission is prepared to go against the recommendations of the Sheriff’s Office and its own planning staff, it appears likely this application won’t fare any better.
What are the issues this time?
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For one, the medical marijuana collective proposed for Oceano would not meet the letter of the law on distance. It’s 922 feet from Oceano Park, and the county requires at least 1,000 feet of separation between medical marijuana facilities and schools, libraries, playgrounds and recreation centers.
That’s a reasonable requirement, though in this case, we believe there are legitimate reasons to waive the spacing requirement.
For one, the proposed location, 1409 S. Fourth St., is separated from the park by Highway 1. Also, the medical marijuana facility would not be visible from the park and on top of that, driving distance would be much farther — three-quarters of a mile.
Of more concern is the sheriff’s recommendation for denial. According to a letter from a county crime prevention specialist, with its current staffing the Sheriff’s Office would not be able to provide the increased patrols that would be needed if the collective were to open.
We believe it’s a stretch to conclude that a single medical marijuana facility, operated under the strict conditions the county has imposed, would be a “magnet for crime.” However, we agree that an increased law enforcement presence would be prudent, at least initially. But would that really require additional deputies? If so, that raises the question: Should the county approve any project that could potentially increase the workload for deputies?
Here’s our concern: If the county can’t approve an application for a medical marijuana facility until it has the revenue to hire additional deputies, we may be waiting a long, long time.
Again, we ask the question we raised in August 2010, when the application for a dispensary proposed in Nipomo was denied: Would any application for a medical marijuana facility be approved by San Luis Obispo County officials?
Here’s what we said then: “It’s a waste of county staff time — not to mention the time and money invested by applicants — to continue to go through the hearing process if county decision-makers are philosophically opposed or lack the political will to allow a dispensary in the face of opposition.”
That still holds true. If the county is not prepared to approve a medical marijuana facility under any circumstances — and it’s beginning to look that way — it should do everyone a favor and stop the charade of processing applications.