Socially Equitable Cannabis Program

Project Contact: Don Chase | PDS.AdvancePlanning@sdcounty.ca.gov  | Phone (858) 505-6677    

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Project Status

On March 3, 2021 (Item #11), staff returned to the Board of Supervisors (Board) with a status update from the Board direction provided on January 27, 2021. The update included staff research, analysis of other jurisdictions’ program development, stakeholder input to date, and to seek Board direction on how the Program is built.

Board Letter
Minute Order

The Board directed:

  • The Office of Equity and Racial Justice to lead the development of the framework and strategy, including grant funding options, needed to launch a comprehensive Social Equity Program and coordinate this with the land use permitting system being developed by the Department of Planning & Development Services. 
  • Staff to return to the Board in 90 days with a progress report and return to the Board in 180 days with an update on stakeholder input, ordinance development, and Social Equity Program options for Board direction.
  • Staff to prepare an analysis of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), a mitigated negative declaration, and a negative declaration that includes pros and cons of each approach, along with timelines, which will allow for additional stakeholder engagement and potentially reduce the cost and time associated with permitting for future applicants, making the permitting process more equitable, with the objective of narrowly defining the CEQA needs, and expediting the permitting process including exploring ministerial permits, conditional use permits, or neighborhood use permits.
  • The Chief Administrative Officer to work with stakeholders to modify the regulatory code to better facilitate sustainable operations by the existing permit holders and return to the Board in 90 days with options for Board direction.

On January 27, 2021 (Item #4), the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to develop Cannabis and Social Equity programs for implementation in the County’s unincorporated areas. Over the coming months, County staff will be drafting new ordinances and regulations for the Planning Commission’s and Board of Supervisors’ considerations later this year. If adopted, these ordinances will create a permitting system to allow cannabis retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing in certain zones in the unincorporated area. Additionally, if adopted, the Social Equity Program will provide people that have past cannabis arrests or that live in areas disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs with greater opportunities to secure a County operating permit.

To help guide our effort, County staff will be reaching out to Community Planning Groups, Community Sponsor Groups, social and racial justice advocates, industry members, farmers, potential cannabis permit holders, and others. We hope to hear your thoughts about the new programs and answer any questions you may have.

For additional details and program specifics, please refer to the Board Letter submitted by the Supervisors of Districts One and Four.  The Board’s Minute Order, which expresses the Board’s direction provided during the January 27 hearing, is also accessible at this link

Stakeholder Engagement

Overview Presentation Slides

Group Meetings

February 9th, 2021: Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance
February 9th, 2021: San Diego Cannabis Social Equity Coalition
February 11th, 2021: Community Planning and Sponsor Group Chair Meeting  
February 11th, 2021: Cannabis Industry Professionals
February 12th, 2021: Farm Bureau - Cannabis Sub Committee Meeting 
February 18th, 2021: City of La Mesa
February 22nd, 2021: Campo Lake Morena Community Planning Group
February 24th, 2021: Regional Cannabis Legal Community 
February 24th, 2021: Rainbow Community Planning Group 
February 25th, 2021: Fallbrook Community Planning Group Cannabis Ad Hoc Subcommittee 
February 26th, 2021: American Cancer Society & American Heart Association
March 2nd, 2021: Sweetwater Community Planning Group
March 2nd, 2021: Valle De Oro Community Planning Group
March 3rd, 2021: Lakeside Community Planning Group
March 4th, 2021: Borrego Springs Community Planning Group
March 4th, 2021: Ramona Community Planning Group
March 8th, 2021: Lynn Lyman, Robert DiVito, Frank Ohrmund 
March 8th, 2021: UFCW Local 135
March 9th, 2021: Bloom Consulting
March 10th, 2021: South Coast Cannabis Cultivation Unit Section, State Water Resources Control Board
March 13th, 2021: Quarter 1 Community Plan and Sponsor Group Meeting
March 16th, 2021: Clay Company, Inc and Eaze
March 16th, 2021: Farm Bureau
March 17th, 2021: Natasha Nance and Rudy Reyes, Cal State San Diego Global Campus
March 18th, 2021: Casa de Oro Alliance
March 23rd, 2021: San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Cannabis Working Group
March 23rd, 2021: Cannabis Stakeholders' Group (CSG)
March 23rd, 2021: Farm Bureau Cannabis Working Group
March 24, 2021: Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM)
March 24th, 2021: Bloom Consulting
April 7th, 2021: Bureau Of Cannabis Control Social Equity Team
April 8th, 2021: California Department of Fish and Wildlife & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
April 9th, 2021: City of Encinitas
April 9th, 2021: City of San Diego Cannabis Business Division
April 12th, 2021: City of Imperial Beach
April 19th, 2021: California Department of Fish and Wildlife Cannabis Program 
April 20th, 2021: Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians
April 21st, 2021: San Diego Green New Deal Alliance

Individual Meetings

February 12th, 2021: Dallin Young – Blue Water Government Affairs
February 12th, 2021: Richard Westfall – Retired Planner
February 16th 2021: Councilmember Padilla - City of Chula Vista
February 23rd, 2021: Rudy Reyes – Medical Cannabis Advocate
March 2nd, 2021: Phil Rath – United Medical Marijuana Coalition
March 2nd, 2021: Shryne Group
March 5th, 2021: Akashic Care
March 12th, 2021: Miguel A. de Jesús, Cal State University San Marcos
March 17th, 2021: CDFA CalCannabis Licensing Science Unit – Caitlin Hengeveld
March 22nd, 2021: Joe Eberstein, San Diego County Marijuana Prevention Initiative (MPI)
March 18th, 2021: Ashley Block, Nebrina Holdings LLC
March 24th, 2021: Laura Wilkinson Sinton – Caligrown
April 16th, 2021: Chris Eggers - Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions

State and Local Cannabis Regulation Timeline

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act (CUA). Under the CUA, medicinal-use cannabis was permitted for patients with medical recommendations from their physicians. 

On June 23, 2009 (Item #20), the County Board of Supervisors (Board) directed staff to amend the County Zoning Ordinance to prohibit illegal, non-medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within the unincorporated areas. 

On August 5, 2009 (Item # 6), the Board adopted an interim urgency ordinance enacting a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana facilities. The interim urgency ordinance was adopted to allow County staff the time needed to study how medical marijuana facilities should be permitted and determine the appropriate regulations for such uses.

On June 23 and 30, 2010 (Item # 5), the County Board of Supervisors amended the County’s Regulatory Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance to provide licensing and operational requirements relating to the establishment of medical cannabis facilities. The ordinance implemented the 1996 CUA by establishing regulation and licensing requirements that allowed patients and primary caregivers to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes while protecting public health, safety and welfare of communities within the unincorporated area.

In 2015, the State of California passed Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643, that collectively established a comprehensive state regulatory framework for the licensing and enforcement of cultivation, manufacturing, retail sale, transportation, storage, delivery and testing of medicinal cannabis in California. The regulatory framework known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), established three branches for licensing and regulating medicinal cannabis activity: Bureau of Cannabis Control, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch

On February 3, 2016 (Item # 7), during public communication, speakers addressed the Board regarding their concerns about medical cannabis facilities. The Board referred the matter to staff, with a request to return with potential options available for regulating medical cannabis facilities.

On March 16, 2016 (Item # 3), the Board adopted an interim urgency ordinance enacting a moratorium on the establishment of new medical cannabis facilities for a 45-day period. The interim urgency ordinance prohibited the ability for new medical cannabis facilities to be established to the extent allowed by law. The Board also directed staff to return at a future date with various ordinance options to address the siting and enforcement of these facilities.

On April 27, 2016 (Item # 2), the Board extended the moratorium for an additional 10 months and 15 days. 

On November 4, 2016 (Item #1) the Planning Commission considered the Amendment to Medical Marijuana Collective Facility Ordinance project. Based on the Board’s direction, staff proposed different ordinance options for consideration. Commissioner Woods motioned to recommend option eight (8) to the Board of Supervisors, with noted modifications; Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. All in favor; motion passed (6-0-1-0).

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The AUMA legalized recreational cannabis for individuals over the age of 21. The act also permitted regulated businesses to sell cannabis beginning January 1, 2018.

January 25, 2017 (Item # 1), the Board directed staff to return with an ordinance to place a ban on all medical and non-medical marijuana facilities, collective facilities, and amend the County Zoning ordinance related to non-medical marijuana dispensaries.

On March 15, 2017 (Item # 2) and March 22, 2017 (Item # 6), the Board amended and repealed the County Zoning Ordinances related to medical and non-medical cannabis facilities within the unincorporated County. Consequently, the five existing medical cannabis facilities were ordered to close by 2022.

In June 2017, California established the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) through Senate Bill 94. As a combination of its precursors, MCRSA and AUMA, the MAUCRSA became the single regulatory system for governing medicinal and adult-use cannabis in California.

In September 2018, California signed into law the California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018 through Senate Bill 1294 and the Budget Act of 2019. Under the California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018, the Bureau of Cannabis Control granted funding to local jurisdictions with equity programs that promote social equity and support individuals who are disproportionately affected by cannabis criminalization.

On January 27, 2021 (Item #4), the Board directed staff to amend the County Zoning Ordinance to allow for a suite of uses, including retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, testing, or a combination of these uses, through a microbusiness license.

The Board also directed staff to develop a new Cannabis Permitting Program which will prioritize social equity, access, and business opportunities. The Social Equity Program will allow individuals with past cannabis arrests and/or convictions, of low-income, and of communities with high arrest rates or “Disproportionately Impacted Areas” to have greater opportunities for securing a County operating permit. A comprehensive list of the Board’s direction from January 27, 2021, can be reviewed in the Minute Order.  

Additional State Cannabis Resources

In addition to the County’s future operating permits that are under development, a state license is also required to engage in commercial cannabis activity. For more information on state licensing programs, please visit the following links.

State of California Cannabis Portal
Bureau of Cannabis Control