Socially Equitable Cannabis Program

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About the Program

The County of San Diego is developing the Board-directed Socially Equitable Cannabis Program (Program). The Program would allow commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis operations in the unincorporated area of the County. The Program is needed to stop the operation of illegal and unlicensed dispensaries, advance social equity, and ensure all state regulations are followed.  

As of October 2021, the Board adopted ordinance amendments to allow the five existing cannabis dispensaries that were in operation in the unincorporated County prior to the County’s 2017 prohibition on new medical facilities to continue operations and expand commercial sales of medicinal and adult-use cannabis. Currently, no new dispensaries or other cannabis operations are permitted under the existing ordinances.  

The County is committed to the development of a Program that facilitates greater equity in business ownership and employment in the regulated cannabis market by reducing the barriers to entry for those who have been impacted by cannabis related criminalization.  

Program Components 

The Program is made up of several different components. Each component is led by one of three County business groups: Land Use and Environmental Group (LUEG), Finance and General Government Group (FG3), and Public Safety Group (PSG). Within each Group, there are identified Department leads. 

The Program Components and their Department leads are: 

  1. Regulatory Code Update - To establish the requirements for running a commercial medical or adult-use cannabis business including retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing. 
  2. Zoning Ordinance Update - To establish the zoning regulations to allow for commercial cannabis facilities. 
  3. Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) - To analyze and report potential environmental impacts from the proposed Program and evaluate possible mitigations under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  
  4. Social Equity Program - To establish an equity program to assist local equity applicants/licensees in successfully gaining entry to and operating in the regulated market. 
  5. Licensing and Permitting System - To establish the structure (application framework, review processes) and procedures for obtaining the required County license(s) and permit(s)to operate commercial cannabis businesses. 
  6. Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program - To establish a tax policy for commercial cannabis businesses for voter consideration.  
  7. Fee Package for Existing Facilities - To establish fees for the existing five facilities currently permitted in the unincorporated County. 

Program Timeline

Below are the estimated development timelines for each component: 

# Component Timeline Progress
1 Regulatory Code Update Spring 2022 – Summer 2024  In development
2 Zoning Ordinance Update  Spring 2022 – Summer 2024  In development
3 Program EIR Summer 2022 – Summer 2024  In development
4 Social Equity Program Spring 2022 – Winter 2022 

Socially Equitable Assessment completed.

Program in development

5 Permitting and Licensing System  Summer 2022 – Summer 2024 

Transition from Sheriffs to Planning & Development Services approved November 2022

Overall Program Permitting & Licensing In development

6 Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program Winter 2021/2022 – Fall 2022 

New Tax Public Vote Completed

Taxation rates and other considerations in development

7 Fee Package for Existing Facilities Winter 2021/2022 – Summer 2022  Completed November 2022

2022 Milestones

  1. In August 2022, the Board approved placing a cannabis taxation measure (Measure A) on the November 8, 2022, ballot.  The County anticipates certifying the election results in December 2022. Next steps for a cannabis tax are for the Board to set specific tax rates and other aspects of the program. Finance and General Government Group (FG3) will be working with a consultant to complete the required analysis and conduct outreach meetings.  A return to the Board to set tax rates is anticipated in Spring 2023. 
  2. The Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ) has recently completed a Social Equity Assessment of the impacts of the War on Drugs within the San Diego region. OERJ will bring an item to the Board on December 13, 2022, requesting the Board to adopt a resolution to authorize the Office to apply for additional grant funds. Please visit the Clerk of the Board’s website by clicking here for more details on this item, or contact the Office of Equity and Racial Justice at OERJ@sdcounty.ca.gov, or by phone (619) 531-5505, or visit their website by clicking here.  
  3. On October 26, 2022, the Board voted to transition the existing cannabis licensing program from the Sheriff to Planning Development Services (PDS). Please visit the Clerk of the Board’s website for more information on this item by clicking here. Starting in December 2022, PDS Code Compliance will begin oversight of the licensing for the existing 5 non-conforming dispensaries. Separately, PDS Code Compliance will continue to work with Sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Taskforce to address any complaints of illegal operations. 
  4. The land use regulations for the future Socially Equitable Cannabis Program remain under development with several consultants now assisting County staff on best practice research and environmental review.  Public outreach on draft regulations is planned to commence in 2023, of which future email and website notices will be published in advance to announce outreach events. 

How to Get Involved 

The Socially Equitable Cannabis Program will have multiple opportunities for community and stakeholder involvement throughout the development process. Be sure to subscribe to the Program updates list through the link provided at the top of the page to receive announcements about outreach activities. Announcements will also be posted on the individual Department lead websites for their respective components. Website links can be found in the following section.

For More Information

For more information about the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program, please contact:  

Mike Condon |  PDS.LongRangePlanning@sdcounty.ca.gov  | Phone (858) 505-6677     

If you have questions about the Regulatory Code and Zoning Ordinance updates, Program EIR, or Licensing and Permitting System, please contact:  

Mike Condon |  PDS.LongRangePlanning@sdcounty.ca.gov  | Phone (858) 505-6677 or visit the website.

If you have questions about the Social Equity Program, please contact the Office of Equity and Racial Justice | OERJ@sdcounty.ca.gov| Phone (619) 531-5505 or visit their website.  

If you have questions about the Taxation Program, please contact the Office of Financial Planning | cosdpublic@sdcounty.ca.gov| Phone (619) 531-6006 or visit their website.   

If you have questions about the fees for the existing cannabis facilities, please contact the Sherriff’s Licensing Division | Phone (858) 974-2020 or visit their website.   

Please note, the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Services Bureau has responsibility for enforcement against unpermitted cannabis facilities and responds to threats to public safety. If you have an emergency, please contact the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Services Bureau through 911. For non-emergency situations, please see the Law Enforcement Services Bureau's website for more information about their role and how to contact them. 

Looking for Information about Unincorporated Areas? 

The Socially Equitable Cannabis Program applies only to the unincorporated area of the County. For questions about the cannabis programs in incorporated areas (cities and other local governments), please reach out to those jurisdictions directly.  

Click here for a map and a list of the communities that are found in the unincorporated area of the County.    

UnincorporatedMap

State Cannabis Resources 

In addition to the County’s future commercial cannabis permits (ordinance under development), a state license is required to engage in adult-use commercial cannabis operations. For more information on state licensing programs, please visit the following links: 

State of California Cannabis Portal 

Public Hearings

The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors will conduct a public hearing on the transfer of the current cannabis licensing program from the Sheriff’s Department to Planning & Development Services. More information on the public hearing is provided below.

Hearing Information
Date:    December 13, 2022 
Time:    9:00 a.m. 
Location:   County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310, San Diego, California 92101

Public Participation
Those wishing to participate in the meeting and/or comment should visit the Clerk of the Board website at https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/cob/bosa.html. If you have any questions, please contact the Board Operations Unit at (619) 531-5434 or via email to publiccomment@sdcounty.ca.gov.