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Marijuana in San Diego: To Legalize or Not to Legalize?

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With California’s budget in a state of nonexistence and unemployment looking dismal as ever, many of the state’s policymakers have been looking in a direction that seems more possible than ever before: the legalization of marijuana. California’s Proposition 19, an initiative which will be on the November ballot, would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for those of age 21 and older, and make it possible for the state to tax revenues gained from the sale of the drug.

But a recent Field Poll shows that the majority of California voters oppose the Proposition, with 48% of the 1,005 likely voters polled saying they would vote no, and 44% saying they would vote yes. Only the San Francisco Bay Area, which has shown strong support for the legalization of cannabis in the past, came back with numbers that demonstrated an overwhelming desire for Prop. 19 to pass, voting 53% yes and 38% no. In San Diego County, it seems most residents do not approve of the ballot measure, with 39% voting yes and 54% voting no.

With recent events in San Diego County, the numbers do not come as a surprise. A new ordinance passed on June 30th, 2010 by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors restricts the locations where medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed and makes the cost of owning and running a dispensary more expensive. The new ordinance states that dispensaries are limited to industrial zones and require an armed license, video monitoring and license fees of up to $20,000. Furthermore, they are required to be a minimum of 1,000 feet away from homes, churches, schools, and parks.

While the Board contends that there are at least 15 locations in San Diego that meet these staunch requirements, opponents argue that nearly all of those sites are uninhabitable, consisting of undeveloped land, areas that are zoned for treatment of radioactive materials, etc.

In addition to the new regulations that have been passed, Federal anti-drug agents of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) have raided at least four marijuana dispensaries in the County over the course of the past few weeks, and at least 12 individuals accused of selling pot illegally in the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles have been arrested.

Despite these dim prospects, however, Proposition 19 proponents are holding out hope, citing that the numbers in the Field Poll do not account for many voters’ opinions, including young voters who have shown overwhelming support for legalization. But only November will tell if  marijuana lovers will be able to light up and smoke a j with the State’s nod of approval.

Photos from Neeta Lind and Foxtongue via flickr

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