Murchison & Cumming LLP

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Approve Developing Commercial Cannabis Licensing Framework

January 27, 2021

By: Kelly Hayes

Today, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to begin developing a regulatory commercial cannabis licensing system within the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Today's vote is a vast contrast to prior actions taken by the Board. In 2017, the Board passed an outright ban on the issuance of any new permits for commercial or medical cannabis facilities. Under the 2017 ban, the five (5) existing and licensed medicinal cannabis facilities that are located within the unincorporated areas of the County, would need to close their businesses by 2022.

Today's action will require the Chief Administrative Officer to:

Develop Zoning Ordinances that would allow for the following:

  • Cannabis Retail allowed in areas zoned commercial and industrial.
  • Cannabis Cultivation allowed in areas zoned for agriculture.
  • Cannabis Manufacturing allowed in areas zoned for industrial.
  • Cannabis Distribution allowed in areas zoned for industrial.
  • Cannabis Testing allowed in areas zoned for industrial.
  • Cannabis Microbusiness license in areas zoned for agriculture, commercial or industrial. Setbacks set at 600 feet from a qualifying “sensitive use” but also consider a data driven process to bring back additional recommendations.
  • Repeal County Zoning Ordinance Sections 6935 (Medical Marijuana Collective Facilities) and 6976 (Prohibition of Marijuana Facilities - Medical or Non-Medical).
  • Allow for the sale of ingestible cannabis products, including edible and drinkable products. Allow for onsite consumption of cannabis products at specific cannabis facilities and at permitted events.

Develop amendments to the County of San Diego Regulatory Code Sections 21.2501 and 21.2503 (a) and develop a new cannabis permitting system that:

  • Allows existing and new Medicinal and/or Adult Use cannabis facilities to obtain a County operating permit for one of the following permit categories: Retail (Storefront and/or Non-Storefront), Cultivation, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Testing; or a County operating permit for a Microbusiness license.
  • Contains a “Social Equity Program” that provides individuals with past cannabis arrests and/or convictions, and those that were low income and lived in high arrest communities or “Disproportionately Impacted Areas” by providing such individuals with greater opportunities to secure a County operating permit, and is in place prior to the issuance of a County operating permit.
  • Requires the issuance of Labor Peace Agreements after hiring of the 10th employee. Follows all applicable State laws and regulations.

Upon approval of a final ordinance, the County will allocate $500,000 to the San Diego County Sherriff Department and Code Enforcement for immediate and aggressive enforcement of unlicensed illegal commercial cannabis facilities and related businesses.

The public will have additional time to comment on any drafts of the proposed ordinance. City staff will need to report back to the Board in 90 days with an update including any regulatory changes that can be implemented within that time, and return back to the Board with final ordinances and policies within 180 days.


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