First Pot Shop In San Diego Opens

jg_dispensary1_343852x0276_t840x568San Diego has joined the 50 other California cities with legal medical marijuana dispensaries, as a new shop opened in Otay Mesa on Wednesday (March 18).

A Green Alternative, located in a strip mall close to the international border, is the first permitted MMJ dispensary in San Diego. Though no long lines met its opening, the customers who came were excited about finally buying cannabis from an authorized SD shop.

‘Most Legit’

The store “is the most legit” in the city, described Gerard Bennett, a customer who used to regularly purchase the drug elsewhere.

San Diego City gave final approval last week to two other dispensaries in Keamy Mesa and San Ysidro, respectively. These two stores are likely to open this spring. Meanwhile, a fourth dispensary, located east of Point Loma, anticipates the awarding of its final approval from the SD Planning Commission.

For customers like Bennett, it’s a good thing that cannabis shops are now regulated, because with illegal dispensaries, patients who are buying could get busted.

“We’re achieving a longtime goal,” said A Green Alternative owner David Blair. He believes the shop’s opening was a major city milestone, as patients now have safe access of the drug.

Another customer, Mike Arlotta, agreed, expressing his confidence in the smooth running of the dispensary. Equipped with surveillance cameras, a metal detector, and a security guard, the shop is definitely doing it right, said Arlotta.

Nearby Shops Unsure

Although it is under city regulations and is lauded by customers, A Green Alternative still has not moved past the public’s hesitant stance on marijuana. Its neighboring shops admitted they are still unsure about how the dispensary could affect business in the strip mall.

The dispensary itself is an unassuming store, a 1,400-square foot floor space slotted between a duty-free shop and a car insurance office. The only signage it has is its name, and there is nothing that indicates that its business is in cannabis.

Hector Cisneros, manager at a nearby Subway restaurant, said that so far, they are treating the dispensary “just like another business”.

“It’s something new for us,” he said, that’s why they are uncertain how it will “work out.”

San Diego Regulations

Medical marijuana has been approved in California since 1996, but only 51 cities in the state (including SD) currently have a process to legitimize cannabis dispensaries. San Diego is in fact the only city in its county offering such a process. Aside from it, the county government allowed another dispensary, located in an unincorporated area near El Cajon, to launch last summer.

San Diego requires marijuana dispensaries to be nonprofits and to pass other conditions such as product testing and rigorous security requirements. There are also strict zoning rules mandating cannabis shops to be at least 100 feet away from residential areas and 1,000 feet from schools.

Medical cannabis supporters say that marijuana regulation will help close down some 100 pot shops across the county operating without permission and rules.

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