Socially Equitable Cannabis Program


Cannabis Updates | April 2023

The County will be hosting a listening session on May 18 to discuss the Cannabis Social Equity Program, and virtual small group meetings from April 18 to May 2, 2023, to gather stakeholder feedback on specific Board-directed items to be included in the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program. Please see the Current Engagement Opportunities section below to learn more. 

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In January 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed County staff to develop the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program (SECP). The SECP 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, microbusinesses, events, and testing. The SECP is intended to stop the operation of illegal and unlicensed dispensaries, advance social equity, and ensure all state regulations are followed.  

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 the SECP 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. 


The Socially Equitable Cannabis Program (SECP) consists of four main elements: (1) Social Equity Program, (2) Cannabis Regulatory Requirements, (3) Cannabis Licensing and Permitting System, and (4) Cannabis Taxation Program.

REV Elements

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 (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 includes 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 here

Cannabis Regulatory Requirements

The 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 here.

Cannabis Licensing and Permitting

Development of the cannabis licensing and permitting system is being led by Planning and Development Services (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 here.

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 if approved by the voters, staff were to return to the Board to establish actual tax rates. Measure A passed with 57.45% of voters voting in favor of the measure and 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.

For more information about the Cannabis Business Tax, please contact the Office of Financial Planning.


Element Timeline Progress
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
Commercial Cannabis Taxation Winter 20/21 – Spring 2023 
Adopted April 2023


The County recognizes community and stakeholder engagement is essential to the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program (SECP) development and decision-making process and is committed to open, inclusive, and ongoing communication. The SECP will have multiple opportunities for community and stakeholder involvement throughout the development process. 

Additionally, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the County will be preparing a Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to analyze and disclose the potential environmental effects of the Socially Equitable Cannabis Program. The CEQA 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). You can learn more about the CEQA process here.  

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. 

Current Engagement Opportunities  (updated 5/15/2023)

Social Equity Program Listening Session

The Office of Equity and Racial Justice is hosting a virtual listening session on May 18 to discuss the Cannabis Social Equity Program and the Cannabis Social Equity Entrepreneurs Program. Specific topics will include the upcoming Cannabis Social Equity Program eligibility, program structure and program benefits. 

When: Thursday, May 18, 2023, 6:00 p.m.

Board-Directed Cannabis Program Considerations – Phase 2 Group Sessions

We want to hear from you! The County is currently seeking input on program considerations, as directed by the Board of Supervisors on June 15, 2022. Specifically, your input is needed to help inform options being developed in response to the following Board directed measures or items: 

  • Develop a design guideline checklist for each type of cannabis facility (Regulatory Requirements)
  • Propose options to limit the number of cannabis facilities and indoor consumption lounges (Regulatory Requirements)
  • Develop a definition and guidelines for cannabis events (Regulatory Requirements)
  • Establish a Community Equity Contribution Program (Social Equity Program)

The County is hosting virtual small group meetings for different stakeholder groups from April 18 to May 2, 2023. This is the second phase of outreach on these specific items, and these meetings will present the information we have received to date and gather more input. 

Each small group meeting will have the same presentation and format. You are invited to attend the meeting that most closely fits your interests or affiliations.

Environmental Groups: Tuesday, April 18, 2023, 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Cannabis Businesses: Tuesday, April 18, 2023, 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Labor Groups: Wednesday, April 19, 2023, 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Social Equity Advocates: Wednesday April 19, 2023, 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Cannabis Advocates and Land Use Industry: Thursday, April 20, 2023, 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Public Health/Safety Advocates: Thursday, April 20, 2023, 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Cannabis Businesses and Advocates: Tuesday May 2, 2023, 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The County hosted the first phase of outreach on these items in early March and you can review key slides from the presentation here. These small meetings will be followed by a third round of outreach to present the emerging concepts that we anticipate bringing to the Board for consideration.

If you would like to provide feedback, but are unable to attend the outreach meetings, you may email your comments directly to or call us at (858) 505-6677.   

General Inquiries:

Planning & Development Services