An analysis of crime statistics by Imperial Beach Patch has shown no correlation between crime and medical marijuana dispensaries near Imperial Beach.
The Imperial Beach City Council will take public comments and read proposed ordinances Wednesday before a vote on whether or not to adopt a ban on the dispensaries July 6.
A temporary moratorium first approved in 2009 will expire in August.
When City Manager Gary Brown recommended adopting a ban in December 2010, it was due in part to concerns about a possible increase in crime, based on claims of an increase of criminal activity near dispensaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Neither the San Diego County Sheriff's Department or the San Diego Police Department have produced official reports on medical marijuana facilities and their correlation with crime.
However, a review of crimes reported to the San Diego Police Department of incidents at dispensaries nearby found no evidence of an increase in criminal activity.
“Since our opening in mid-February , we have had no incidents or problems with our community, patients, law enforcement, neighbors or local businesses," said Pat with the American Treatment Advancement Cooperative Inc., or ATA, who declined to state his last name.
His statement is supported by evidence provided by the San Diego Police Department’s Narcotics Division. Between May 1, 2009, and April 30, 2011, a period in which medicinal marijuana co-ops were rapidly growing, no marijuana crime related activity was reported at the ATA.
The few times police were called out over the last two years were on nonrelated incidents that involved mentally disturbed individuals.
During the last two years, at each of the five marijuana dispensaries bordering Imperial Beach, there have been no reports of crime related to the cultivation, selling or possession of medicinal marijuana.
SDPD dispatchers reported one non-emergency 911 call from The Tailored Health Care Collective, and three burglary alarm responses at the Tree House Club, for which only one police report was filed and no arrests were made.
Police were dispatched six times to the Planet of Kind, once for a hazardous condition violation, a suspected petty theft, a domestic dispute and three times for incidents that required no action.
At the GSC Wellness dispensary at the corner of 16th Street and Palm Avenue, five incidents were documented by police involving traffic violations and security checks that had nothing to do with the co-op.
Sheriff's spokesman Mark Walters provided data specifically on marijuana related offenses from May of 2009 through April 2011.
No marijuana dispensaries currently operate in Imperial Beach, but between May 2009 and April 2011, there were 1,316 drug-related charges in the city of Imperial Beach.
Of those, 545 were for possession of marijuana, seven for selling marijuana and nine for cultivating the substance.
These charges led to 458 arrests on marijuana related offenses, which includes 55 juvenile offenders. The District Attorney’s office was not able to provide information on post-arrest adjudication prior to publication, but its website proudly boasts a 94 percent conviction rate.
Crime statistics kept by the San Diego Police Department show that overall crime in San Diego is at its lowest point since 1969, and has been on a decline since 2003. The Sheriff’s online crime analysis tool and reports from SANDAG reveal .
Based on a report by the County District Attorney's Medical Marijuana Task Force, the San Diego County Grand Jury recommended in June 2010 that the Imperial Beach City Council, along with other cities which enacted moratoriums, establish cost neutral programs for the licensing, regulation and monitoring of medical marijuana co-ops. Furthermore, the Task Force recommended Imperial Beach rescind its moratorium because qualified patients were being denied access.
A month later, the council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium another year.
"If we can come up with proper legislation we feel is adequate for Imperial Beach, the moratorium could be lifted," Mayor Jim Janney said at the July 7 meeting.
In December 2010, City Manager Gary Brown recommended an outright ban of dispensaries and pointed to five reasons why:
- Their presence could result in an increase in crime.
- Dispensaries are easily accessible in San Diego.
- "The complexity of regulation and enforcement will place a costly burden on the city's limited resources."
- The city cannot adopt county regulatory rules, and allowing dispensaries in commercial zones could present hazard to residents, public safety staff, firefighters and others.
- Based on distances considered acceptable in other municipalities between dispensaries and schools, churches and parks, no current commercial zone in Imperial Beach would qualify.
According to estimates from the San Diego County Sheriff and Imperial Beach Code Enforcement Officer David Garcias, enacting regulations specifically for IB "could easily be in the range of $90,000 to well over $100,000 per year," Brown said.
"Now the response to that or it's been suggested, 'Well, gee, if that's what it's really costing, why not make that a licensing cost?' And the response is, we still probably would not have the time to adequately enforce the state rules on it," he said.
Included in the proposal to City Council was a Power Point presentation prepared by detectives Steven Brewer and Michael Helms with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Licensing Division.
The presentation cites claims by the California Police Chiefs Association and a retired LAPD detective that San Francisco and Los Angeles have seen an increase in crime near marijuana dispensaries.
It also states that motorcycle and street gangs in British Columbia Canada and the Mexican mafia in Los Angeles have attempted to forcibly control dispensaries and claims crimes in proximity to a dispensary may be under reported.
The city's argument that marijuana is made readily available at dispensaries just over the Imperial Beach-San Diego border has been put in danger by legislation enacted by the San Diego City Council last month.
New stricter zoning laws could result in the closure of dispensaries just over the San Diego-Imperial Beach border.
A coalition of medical marijuana co-ops and patients submitted a referendum with more than 47,000 signatures May 27 which forced the council to amend its ordinance or let voters decide the fate of co-ops in a special election. A decision on this matter is expected by the end of June.
Should a permanent ban be adopted, the group Stop the Ban IB, which is currently promoting a letter writing campaign, may make a similar push in Imperial Beach to put marijuana dispensaries in Imperial Beach on the 2012 ballot.