Socially Equitable Cannabis Program

Project Contact: Aleena Benedito |  | Phone (858) 505-6677    

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Project Status

The County is taking steps to improve access to legal cannabis in the unincorporated areas via proposed Zoning Ordinance updates that will affect five existing Medical Marijuana Collective Facilities (existing dispensaries) currently operating within the unincorporated area. These revisions to the Zoning Ordinance will be presented to the Planning Commission on August 6, 2021. 

The revisions to the Zoning Ordinance include amendments to Section 1110 Definitions, Section 6935 Medical Marijuana Collective Facilities, Section 6976 Prohibition of Marijuana Facilities – Medical or Non-Medical, and the addition of a new Section 6861 Nonconforming Cannabis Facilities. These changes include (1) allowing for the existing dispensaries to continue operating past April 14, 2022, (2) allowing for commercial adult use and commercial medical cannabis sales, (3) allowing for alterations to existing structures and expansions up to 10,000 square feet through a ministerial building permit with exemptions of B and S Special Area Designators, and (4) allowing the transfer of operating certificates from existing operating certificate holders to others. The amendments are proposed in response to the Board of Supervisor’s direction on June 9, 2021. This hearing is to provide the Planning Commission the opportunity to comment and make a recommendation on the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments prior to presenting the proposed amendments to the Board of Supervisors later this fall. Staff will also be providing the Planning Commission an update on related amendments to the County Code of Regulatory Ordinances (Regulatory Code), including allowing the sale of edible cannabis products, drinkable cannabis products, and branded merchandise.

The Zoning Ordinance amendments being presented to the Planning Commission on August 6 will affect the existing dispensaries, which reside within the Second and Fifth Supervisorial Districts. Names and locations of the five existing dispensaries are as follows:

  • Outliers Collective, 8157 Wing Ave, El Cajon
  • Ramona Cannabis Co, 736 Montecito Way, Ramona
  • Releaf Meds, 618 Pine St, Ramona
  • Olive Tree Wellness Center/JAXX Cannabis, 1210 Olive St, Ramona
  • San Diego Natural/OutCo, 8530 Nelson Way, Escondido

The Planning Commission provides recommendations to the Board for this type of project. You will receive an additional notice prior to the Board hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for this fall. 

This item will allow the public to provide additional input and the Planning Commissioners to provide a recommendation to the Board for consideration. The Socially Equitable Cannabis Program item will be one of several agendized items to be heard. The hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the County Operations Center (COC) Hearing Room. Due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) public health emergency, members of the public may participate via teleconference, by submitting e-comments, or may be able to attend the meeting in-person (depending on the regulations in place at the time of the meeting).

Notice to Viewers of Planning Commission Hearings - The link to view the live and previously recorded Planning Commission Hearings and the live meeting can be accessed using this webpage. The live link will be created at approximately 9 AM on Friday, August 6, 2021. If you do not see a "View Event" link at 9 AM, please refresh your internet browser until the "View Event" link appears. 

NOTE: Internet Explorer is no longer supported, please use a different browser such as Chrome or Edge.

Stakeholder Engagement

Overview Presentation Slides

Board of Supervisors June 9 Direction Presentation Slides

Group Meetings

February 11, 2021: Community Planning and Sponsor Group Chair Meeting  
February 11, 2021: Cannabis Industry Professionals
February 12, 2021: Farm Bureau - Cannabis Sub Committee Meeting 
February 22, 2021: Campo Lake Morena Community Planning Group
February 24, 2021: Legal Community 
February 24, 2021: Rainbow CPG
February 25, 2021: Fallbrook CPG Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee 
February 26, 2021: American Cancer Society & American Heart Association
March 2, 2021: Sweetwater Community Planning Group
March 2, 2021: Valle De Oro Community Planning Group
March 3, 2021: Lakeside Community Planning Group
March 4, 2021: Borrego Springs Community Planning Group
March 4, 2021: Ramona Community Planning Group
March 8, 2021: Social Equity with Lynne Lyman & Robert DiVito with Element 7
March 8, 2021: UFCW Local 135
March 9, 2021: Bloom Consulting
March 10, 2021: CA State Water
Water Resources Control BoardResource Control Board - South Coast Cannabis Cultivation Unit

March 16, 2021: Clay Company, Inc and Eaze
March 16, 2021: Farm Bureau - Cannabis Sub Committee Meeting
March 18, 2021: Casa de Oro Alliance
March 23, 2021: Meeting with Cannabis Stakeholders Group (CSG) 
March 23, 2021: Farm Bureau - Cannabis Subcommittee Meeting
March 23, 2021: San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce - Cannabis Working Group
March 24, 2021: Bloom Consulting
March 29, 2021: Santa Ysabel Tribal Cannabis Regulatory Agency
April 1, 2021: Borrego Springs CSG
April 7, 2021: Bureau of Cannabis Control Equity Liaison Unit

April 19, 2021: Department of Fish and Wildlife
April 20, 2021: Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians
April 21, 2021: Green New Deal Alliance
May 26, 2021: Community Planning Group and Sponsor Group Chair Meeting
May 27, 2021: Hidden Meadows Community Sponsor Group
June 15, 2021: Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (SCTCA)
June 16, 2021: Twin Oaks Community Sponsor Group
June 17, 2021: San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce – Cannabis Working Group

Individual Meetings

February 12, 2021: Dallin Young - Blue Water Group
February 12, 2021: Richard Westfall – Retired Planner
February 16 2021: Councilmember Padilla - City of Chula Vista
February 18, 2021: Kerry Kusiak - City of La Mesa
February 23, 2021: Rudy Reyes (Cannabis Advocate)
March 2, 2021: Phil Rath – United Medical Marijuana Coalition
March 2, 2021: Matthew Nathaniel - Shryne Group
March 5, 2021: Debbie Arce - Akashic Care
March 12, 2021: Miguel de Jesus - Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM)
March 17, 2021: Natasha Nace and Rudy Reyes - San Diego State University (SDSU) Global Campus
March 17, 2021: Caitlin Hengeveld - CDFA Licensing Science Unit
March 18, 2021: Ashley Block - Nebrina Holdings
March 22, 2021: Joe Eberstein - Center for Community Research Marijuana Prevention Initiative (MPI)
March 24, 2021: Laura Wilkinson Sinton - CaliGrown
March 30, 2021: Noah Alvey - City of Lemon Grove
April 1, 2021: Ed Wicker - Ed Wicker Law
April 8, 2021: Kerry Kusiak - City of La Mesa
April 9, 2021: Rebecca Malone, PJ Fitzgerald - City of San Diego
April 9, 2021: Scott Vurbeff, Jennifer Gates - City of Encinitas
April 12, 2021: Tyler Foltz, Megan Openshaw - City of Imperial Beach
April 13, 2021: Sasha Elkins - SweeterHR
April 16, 2021: Chris Eggers - CC Security Solutions
April 22, 2021: Melissa Krogh - Warner Springs Unified School District
April 26, 2021: Mindy Fogg - County of Ventura
April 27, 2021: Aaron Herzberg - Puzzle Group Law

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.  

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. 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.

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