San Diego officials are considering a bold proposal to eliminate city rules that prohibit cannabis dispensaries from opening near churches, parks, libraries and playgrounds.

The proposal, being spearheaded by City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, would increase the number of dispensaries in the city by nearly 40 percent and bring them into new neighborhoods, such as Rancho Bernardo.

The Planning Commission and the council’s Land Use Committee last week deferred decisions on the proposal until February so city officials have time to gather feedback from residents and community leaders.

But members of both panels said they are open to significantly loosening city rules governing the locations of dispensaries that have been in place since 2014.

“I don’t have a reflexive opposition to creating a more nuanced approach to where cannabis businesses operate,” Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said.

Critics say the proposal would damage neighborhoods and put more young people at risk for abusing cannabis. They also say the process has been rushed and has not included feedback from those who would be most affected.

Supporters say the proposal would allow San Diego to overcome burdensome restrictions that have prevented the opening of the 36 dispensaries city officials envisioned nearly eight years ago when cannabis dispensaries were legalized.


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