Chronic City: Poll Reveals San Diegans Want To Regulate Marijuana Dispensaries, Not Eliminate Them

Photo: Coaster420, Wikimedia Commons
Medical Marijuana: Legal as long as you don't actually buy it anywhere?
It's a classic case of disconnect between public policy and public opinion. As District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis continues with her medical Marijuana dispensary crackdown in San Diego, a new poll indicates that a hefty majority of city residents favor leaving the pot shops open and regulating them.

About 77 percent of San Diego's adult residents agree that the city has an obligation to ensure convenient access to medical Marijuana and 69 percent say the drug should be treated like any other prescription drug.

Only 9 percent want to completely ban the dispensaries.

Dumanis received heavy publicity for saying there are "no such things" as legal Marijuana dispensaries, despite state law. A voter initiative, Prop 215, legalized medical Marijuana in California in 1996, and SB 420 clarified and expanded the law in 2003.

According to president John Nienstedt and research analyst Elizabeth Shield of poll-takers Competitive Edge, San Diegans, even while supporting safe access for medical Marijuana patients, tend to oppose legalizing recreational Marijuana use. Forty-seven percent say they would vote against a measure to legalize and 40 percent would support it. Eleven percent say they are unsure how they'd vote.

Contrary to the picture painted by Dumanis of residents being unhappy about the prevalence of dispensaries in their neighborhoods, 43 percent have no idea whether there is a dispensary near them. Only 8 percent are aware of a medical Marijuana dispensary in their neighborhood, and 48 percent believe their neighborhood has no dispensary.

The regulations with the strongest support -- more than 80 percent -- among San Diegans are 1) requiring employees and managers of dispensaries to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check by law enforcement; and 2) requiring dispensaries to be 1,000 feet from schools and youth facilities.

Also receiving strong support, with more than two-thirds of those polled favoring, were requiring notification letters to be sent to nearby residents during the dispensary permitting process; prohibiting dispensaries from locating in residentially zoned areas; and requiring dispensaries to be non-profit organizations.

More than half (57 percent) disagree that medical Marijuana dispensaries are associated with Mexican drug cartels, an accusation heard frequently from anti-pot zealots like Dumanis.

Almost half (45 percent) of those polled admit having tried Marijuana at some point in their lives. Of those who have tried pot, 28 percent admitted using it in the past year. Of those who have used pot in the past year, 43 percent say they are medicinal users. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of those who say they use pot medically buy it at a dispensary or via a door-to-door delivery service. 

The poll results will be presented on Friday to an 11-member advisory task force created by the San Diego City Council to help establish guidelines for the use of medical Marijuana in the city.

San Diego, like many cities, has no land-use guidelines controlling where Marijuana collectives or cooperatives may or may not be located.

In September, at least 33 people operating Marijuana dispensaries were arrested in San Diego County raids that also shut down 14 storefront dispensaries, including 11 in San Diego. Dumanis assembled SWAT-style strike forces of San Diego Police, San Diego County Sheriff's officers, DEA agents, and IRS agents to descend on the dispensaries, make arrests, seize cash and weed, and disrupt the local medical Marijuana distribution system.

The poll, done on behalf of, a Web site for substance abuse and addiction problems, queried  505 randomly selected adults and was conducted Oct. 14-17 by the aforementioned San Diego-based Competitive Edge Research and Communication. Competitive Edge has worked in the past for news organizations and political candidates.

San Diego Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Survey (PDF)

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