City Council members expressed reservations about approving a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance in light of recent incidents at where students allegedly smoked and sold pot bought at Bay Area dispensaries.
The council will have two options at its Wednesday meeting: adopt an ordinance that would set up a competitive process for choosing one medical marijuana dispensary operator or ban dispensaries outright.
Judging from comments at the Jan. 12 meeting, the council seemed to be leaning toward allowing one dispensary to set up shop with strict guidelines.
But Mayor Kevin Mullin said he is having a change of heart after learning about medical marijuana cards being implicated in offenses at El Camino from a May 10 memo issued by Police Chief Michael Massoni.
“This was a game changer for me, sort of realizing that we as a local government don’t have the ability to control this process well enough,” Mullin said.
Mullin said his intention in supporting a medical marijuana dispensary in an industrial part of the city was to provide access to people with serious illnesses.
“I sort have been viewing drug issues and issues involving our high school campuses as a separate manner,” he said. “With this incident it points to that these two issues, unfortunately, can be linked.”
According to Massoni’s memo, on April 15 high school security caught five El Camino students smoking a joint on Centennial Way behind 1215 Mission Road. One student, who the other students said provided the marijuana, produced a medical marijuana card that he purchased the day before on his 18th birthday.
A medical marijuana card was also tied to the sale of cannabis and edible marijuana at El Camino by a juvenile student, who allegedly got the pot from his 20-year-old brother.
The chief’s report said more than 70 marijuana-related suspensions have occurred on campuses this school year through April.
Council members Richard Garbarino and Karyl Matsumoto both said they were concerned about the report and are on the fence over which way they will vote.
“I am going to wait and listen to the testimony on Wednesday,” Matsumoto said. “I am going to the meeting with an open mind and see where I stand.”
In the past, Council member Mark Addiego has been supportive of licensing a dispensary, while Council member Pedro Gonzalez has been opposed.
The council is likely to hear an earful of opposition from school district employees.
“We are going to be there in full force,” said Jolene Malfatti, president of California School Employees Association’s South San Francisco chapter. “We will try to convince the city leaders that this is not a good thing for our youth in the city.”
The city now has a moratorium in place that doesn’t allow the issuance of medical marijuana permits. With the moratorium set to expire in October, the council directed staff on Jan. 12 to for a medical marijuana collective.
According to the draft ordinance, applicants would have to be screened by the police department and Selection Review Committee before the city manager recommends a preferred applicant.
The applicant could then submit a medical marijuana collective use permit and go before the Planning Commission and City Council for approval. The permit would be good for one year.
The dispensary would be limited to 150 members and the applicant would have to submit an operations plan, including how it would focus on serving South San Francisco residents.
The dispensary would have to be 1,000 feet away from a residential district, public or private school, youth center, public library, park facility or smoke shop. No marijuana could be grown or smoked on site and security measures, including video surveillance, would be required.
Oakland-based dispensary Island of Health has expressed interest in opening a South San Francisco location.
Garbarino said he met with proponents of Island of Health’s proposal before the last council meeting but has recently heard concerns from parents.
“People that I talk to, they do not want this,” he said. “They are adamantly opposed to this.”
Mullin said he has also been hearing a lot feedback from residents against having a dispensary in the city.
“We have been receiving lot of public input from all segments of the community expressing lots of community concerns,” he said. “We need to respond to that.”