Socially Equitable Cannabis Program
Cannabis Updates | November 2023
Update #1 – The public review and comment period for Cannabis Program EIR Notice of Preparation (NOP) ended on October 31, 2023. Please see the Previous Engagement Opportunities section below for more information.
Update #2 - The September 27, 2023, hearing on the request for authorization for Planning & Development Services to accept Prop 64 PH&S grant funds has been postponed. We will update this website once a new hearing date is confirmed. We apologize for any inconvenience.
In January 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed County staff to develop the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program (Cannabis Program). The Cannabis Program will allow for a suite of commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis operations in the unincorporated area of the County including retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, testing, microbusinesses, and temporary events. Through the Cannabis Program, the County strives to advance social equity, allow for safe access to cannabis, and stop the unlicensed market.
Currently, five existing cannabis facilities are authorized
to operate in the unincorporated communities of San Diego County.
These facilities were in operation prior to the County’s 2017
prohibition on new medical facilities and operate in a non-conforming
status in accordance with the County’s Zoning Ordinance. No new
cannabis facilities or other cannabis operations are permitted under
the existing ordinances. New facilities may only be established after
the completion and adoption of the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program
by the Board of Supervisors.
The County is committed to the development of a Cannabis 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 negatively or disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization.
The Cannabis Program consists of the following elements: (1) Social Equity Program, (2) Cannabis Regulatory Requirements, (3) Cannabis Licensing and Permitting System, and (4) Cannabis Taxation Program. Additionally, the County is preparing a Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to analyze and disclose the potential environmental effects of the Cannabis Program.
Social Equity Program
The Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ) is leading the efforts to establish a Social Equity Program to assist local equity applicants/licensees in successfully gaining entry to and operating in the regulated market. In October 2022, the County finalized a Cannabis Social Equity Assessment which includes community feedback received through a series of listening sessions, interviews, focus groups, and a survey, as well as data analysis and research of active social equity cannabis programs in other California jurisdictions. The Equity Assessment provides recommendations for the Social Equity Program and other efforts to address the harms caused by cannabis criminalization.
Learn more about the development of the Social Equity Program.
Cannabis Regulatory Requirements
Planning and Development Services (PDS) is responsible for developing the local regulatory requirements for operating a commercial medical or adult-use cannabis business including retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, microbusinesses, events, and testing. This will include amendments to the County’s Code of Regulatory Ordinances and Zoning Ordinance. Updates to the regulatory code(s) will establish the requirements for running a commercial cannabis business and the Zoning Ordinance update will establish the zoning regulations to allow for commercial cannabis facilities.
Learn more about the development of the regulatory requirements.
Cannabis Licensing and Permitting
Development of the cannabis licensing and permitting system is being led by PDS. The licensing and permitting system will establish the structure (application framework, review processes) and procedures for obtaining the required County license(s) and permit(s) to operate commercial cannabis businesses.
Learn more about the development of the licensing and permitting system.
Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program
The Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program seeks to establish a tax policy for commercial cannabis businesses. In 2022, the Office of Financial Planning prepared a draft cannabis business tax ordinance and fiscal review analysis for Board approval. Per Board direction, the ordinance was placed on the ballot for the November 8, 2022, General Election (Measure A), and passed with 57.45% of voters voting in favor of the measure. In January 2023, the Board considered staff’s recommended initial rates and amended the ordinance to include a 2% retail tax rate. The revised ordinance was adopted in April 2023 and became effective July 1, 2023. The San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector is responsible for the administration and collection of cannabis tax for establishments located in unincorporated areas of the County.
Learn more about Cannabis Tax Administration.
|Commercial Cannabis Taxation||Winter 20/21 - Spring 2023||Complete|
|Social Equity Program||Spring 2022 – Fall 2023||In development|
|Regulatory Requirements||Spring 2022 – Summer 2024||In development|
|Licensing & Permitting||Spring 2022 – Summer 2024||In development|
|Cannabis Program EIR|| Fall 2023- Spring 2025 ||In development|
*Dates subject to change
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
The County recognizes community and stakeholder engagement is essential to the Cannabis Program development and decision-making process and is committed to open, inclusive, and ongoing communication. The Cannabis Program will have multiple opportunities for community and stakeholder involvement throughout the development process.
Additionally, the EIR process provides several key stages
specifically for public input including scoping (providing
input on the range of environmental issues to be addressed in the
EIR), and review and comment (comments to the County on the
adequacy of the draft CEQA document before it is certified). Learn
more about the Cannabis Program EIR.
Information on all outreach and engagement opportunities will be posted to this webpage, when available. Be sure to subscribe to the Cannabis Program email list to receive announcements about upcoming outreach activities.
Previous Engagement Opportunities (updated 11/1/2023)
Cannabis Program EIR – NOP & Scoping Meetings
The County prepared and released a Notice of Preparation (NOP) on September 15, 2023, for public review and comment and held two virtual public scoping meetings on October 12 and 17, 2023. The public comment period ended on October 31, 2023.
The public comment period provided an opportunity for agency staff and interested members of the public to submit written and verbal comments on the scope of the environmental issues to be addressed in the EIR, including any suggestions for measures or alternatives that should be considered to minimize environmental impacts.
Staff is currently reviewing the comments received during the scoping period as we begin drafting the EIR. In the meantime, please visit our new Engage San Diego County platform to learn more about the development of the Cannabis Program.
Board Direction on the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program