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. 
    • Lead Department: Planning and Development Services  
  2. Zoning Ordinance Update - To establish the zoning regulations to allow for commercial cannabis facilities. 
    • Lead Department: Planning and Development Services  
  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).  
    • Lead Department: Planning and Development Services  
  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. 
    • Lead Department: Office of Equity and Racial Justice   
  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. 
    • Lead Department: Planning and Development Services  
  6. Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program - To establish a tax policy for commercial cannabis businesses for voter consideration.  
    • Lead Department: Office of Financial Planning 
  7. Fee Package for Existing Facilities - To establish fees for the existing five facilities currently permitted in the unincorporated County. 
    • Lead Department: Sheriff’s Department   

Program Timeline

Below are the estimated development timelines for each component: 

1 Regulatory Code Update Spring 2022 – Summer 2024 
2 Zoning Ordinance Update  Spring 2022 – Summer 2024 
3 Program EIR Summer 2022 – Summer 2024 
4 Social Equity Program Spring 2022 – Winter 2022 
5 Permitting and Licensing System  Summer 2022 – Summer 2024 
6 Commercial Cannabis Taxation Program Winter 2021/2022 – Fall 2022 
7 Fee Package for Existing Facilities Winter 2021/2022 – Summer 2022 

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 

Board Direction on the Program