San Diego Cracks Down on Illegal Marijuana Dispensaries

In the last few months, San Diego city officials have been cracking down on illegal marijuana dispensaries that are operating without permits. Back in March, city officials shut down nearly 20 dispensaries operating without permits. These 20 were all shut down within 60 days of each other. Several months later, city officials claim that these shut-downs have been successful. As of July, there were 15 dispensaries that were in the process of being shut down by the city. This number has decreased from the 69 dispensaries that were shut down in 2014.

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana was legalized by California voters via Proposition 215 (aka ” CA Compassionate Use Act” back in 1996 and later codified in the CA Health and Safety code § 11362.5. In 2004, Senate Bill 420 (aka “Medical Marijuana Program Act”) built upon the Compassionate Use Act, allowing for qualifying patients (ie. diagnosed with cancer, anorexia, arthritis, etc) to obtain a medical marijuana card as part of the California Dept. of Public Health’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) program to possess marijuana. This means if you are a MMIC card holder, you are legally entitled to possessing the amount of marijuana that is reasonably related to your prescribed medical use.

Laws Governing Dispensaries

In order for one to properly operate a lawful marijuana dispensary in the state, CA Health and Safety Code § 11362.775 requires dispensaries to associate with the state as a nonprofit. This means you must:

  • File articles of incorporation under the CA Corporations or Food and Agricultural Code and classify as a nonprofit.
  • Obtain a seller’s permit and pay sales taxes
  • Regulate your membership and only sell to patients with doctor’s notes
  • Follow all other state and local protocols required of a business

Currently, San Diego has special zoning laws for marijuana dispensaries. San Diego’s first wave of legal medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to open this summer and fall. The city has approved eight legal dispensaries in Otay Mesa, Barrio Logan, Mira Mesa, San Ysidro, and Pacific Beach. Dispensary owners that violate the law can face civil penalties such as fines.

It should also be noted that even legal medical dispensaries face challenges. California banks still will not take deposits from or lend money to dispensaries for fear of federal penalties under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that even legal dispensaries do not have access to banking services and may only take cash, leaving them vulnerable to thieves.

San Diego Marijuana and Drug Offense Lawyer

If you are facing drug-related charges such as intent to distribute, or if you are accused of illegally operating a medical marijuana dispensary, it is imperative to work with an attorney who fully understands the California criminal justice system. The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all types of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in San Diego County, including possession, intent to distribute, and other drug-related charges. Contact our office today and ask for a free, confidential consultation to see how we may be able to put our experience to use to help you.