February 21, 2017

Late January and February have brought a bevy of changes to local cannabis regulations in San Diego, as well as hope for new opportunities. The City of La Mesa began accepting applications for dispensaries, indoor cultivation of up to 5,000 square feet of canopy, and non-volatile manufacturing on February 6. The City of La Mesa is accepting applications because of Measure U, a local ballot initiative passed during the November 2016 election. The November 2016 election also brought the successful passage of Measure V in the City of Lemon Grove. Measure V allows for licensed dispensaries only. The City of Lemon Grove expects to begin accepting applications in March.

Also making news was the City of San Diego. The City has had an ordinance regulating licensed dispensaries since 2014, and has issued fifteen conditional use permits for the use.  On January 31, the San Diego City Council voted on several changes in local law for cannabis.  First, the Council updated its existing medical cannabis dispensary ordinance to conform with the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, opening the door to for-profit operation.  More surprisingly, the Council updated the ordinance to allow licensed dispensaries to operate as adult-use retailers once the State allows such operation and issues licenses.  The Council spoke repeatedly about the need to follow the will of the voters, as expressed by passing Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Interestingly, this wonderful update to the City’s regulations received less coverage and comment than another change before the Council: a proposed ban on cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and most bizarrely, testing.  After weeks of lobbying and public testimony, the Council agreed not to implement a ban on such uses.  Instead, they directed city staff to draft an ordinance to regulate such uses, and put themselves on a desired nine-month timeline to vote on the proposal.  The City Council also voted to allow residents to cultivate the six plants for personal use allowed to them under Proposition 64 outdoors in a locked space, rather than restricting them to indoor-only cultivation.

Unfortunately, the San Diego City Council decided to ban delivery, other than conducted by and originating from licensed dispensaries.  They also voted to ban vaping, smoking, and ingestion of cannabis and cannabis products at events, and they forbade selling, reselling, or distributing cannabis or cannabis products at events.  Thus, the City essentially ruled out allowing cannabis cups, concerts, and other special events at which cannabis could be consumed.

In the good news column, the Encinitas City Council has directed its staff to research and draft an ordinance to possibly regulate commercial cannabis cultivation.  If implemented, that would make Encinitas the only city in north San Diego County to regulate and allow cultivation beyond personal medical use.  One can hope this is the beginning of a new trend in north county to regulate, rather than ban.

Amid these new changes in the cites of San Diego County, the County Board of Supervisors went backwards with a bullet.  On January 25, the Board voted 3-2 to have staff draft a ban on all cannabis activity, be it dispensing, cultivation, or anything else.  In addition to ruling out new activity, including larger scale farming that would be ideal for the County’s agricultural land and climate, the Board is moving towards phasing out the County’s existing dispensary licensees over five years.  The County had had a moratorium since March 2016 on new applications under its dispensary ordinance, which was already one of the most restrictive in the State of California.  Following the election of new supervisor Kristin Gaspar, the balance of power on the board went from favoring regulation and limited cannabis activity, to favoring an outright ban.  The Board will see the proposed ban in March and will likely enact it

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.