By Dave Schwab
Now that marijuana is legal both medically and recreationally, Linda Vista community planners are grappling with the next phase in the process: Where to allow production facilities.
That issue was dealt with by Linda Vista Planning Group, which heard two proposals Jan. 29 for marijuana production facilities. Both applications were presented as informational items only.
One applicant, James (Jimmy) Morrison, who grew up in the Morena area, is seeking a conditional use permit for a family-owned and -operated marijuana production facility at 963-967 Buenos Ave.
Will Senn, founder of Urbn Leaf, an expanding San Diego chain of marijuana dispensaries, is applying for a similar CUP for cannabis production onsite at 1028 Buenos Ave.
“These applications shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other development project review,” counseled city staffer Brian Schoenfisch, who explained the issue as, “does [the project] fit with the zoning and your community plan?”
“I don’t want anyone getting into discussions about not wanting marijuana to be sold,” said LVPG member Margarita Castro. “It’s legal in the state of California. This planning group is addressing the land-use and zoning permits. That is all we are being asked.”
Marijuana applicant Morrison grew up in Bay Park and lives with his family in Silver Terrace.
“I’m a member now in this community,” Morrison said, explaining marijuana production facilities encompass “cultivation, harvesting, processing and manufacturing. It does not allow retail.”
Morrison and his family own three approximately 1,000-square-foot buildings at the end of Buenos Avenue they want to convert into one long, continuous building for growing marijuana.
Applicant Will Senn of Urbn Leaf said his purpose in addressing LVPG was to “be a good neighbor answering questions about the industry as best we can.”
Asked if he was willing to do something to “give back to the community” in exchange for being allowed to operate, Senn replied, “I have a few things I’m looking into for engaging with the community.” He suggested the new Linda Vista Skate Park might be one possibility.
Planner Doug Beckham asked if Senn’s mandatory-required security at his proposed production facility would be armed.
“We will have three armed security guards onsite 24 hours in a lockdown facility with extensive camera backup,” Senn answered.
Planners had numerous questions about parking at the production facility, how contaminated water runoff from growing plants there would be contained, and how product would be transported safely to and from the facility. Questions were also raised about how marijuana grown there would be properly tracked through a statewide system that has yet to be set up.
“We’ll pretty much be using oversized vans, not 18-wheelers, once or twice daily on a rotating schedule to transport to and from the facility,” Senn said. He added cannabis production is not labor-intensive, so adequate parking is not an issue. He said he is also being required to install a system to capture and contain water used in irrigating plants onsite, so there is no runoff to surrounding areas.
Since it is likely to take several months to secure the necessary permitting for his production facility, Senn pointed out he is confident that a workable state tracking system ensuring cannabis won’t be illegally diverted will be in place by the time his business is up and running.
After the planning group meeting, Morrison said he and Senn were both thankful for the opportunity “to get in front of the community planning group and answer their questions.”
Morrison said their two production proposals were similar, but different. He said his facility would be geared largely toward growing, whereas Senn’s facility would be broader in scope and do things his facility wouldn’t, like extracting medicinal oils from plants.
Morrison estimated, if he’s successful, that it would take six months to a year to secure the necessary permitting to begin marijuana production.
“I never anticipated going into this business, it was illegal,” he said. “But when it did become legal, I realized there was a real opportunity to do this.”
Morrison said his point in addressing the planning group was that, “We need to show that we care about our neighbors, that their concerns are valid, and that we’re listening to them and not ignoring them.”
Entering the marijuana trade, like any new business, Morrison described as being both “scary” and “risky.” But he added, “It’s exciting — and well worth the risk for the potential reward.”
— Freelance writer Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.