San Diego City Council is considering easing rules for pot businesses in support of social justice

San Diego citizens are considering relaxing cannabis company regulations to promote social justice in the city’s legal marijuana industry. In addition to establishing a new agency to regulate the cannabis business in San Diego, the San Diego City Council approved a resolution to accept a state grant to support restorative justice for communities harmed by the failed war on drugs.

At a meeting of the council’s land use and housing committee last month, PJ Fitzgerald, head of the city’s new cannabis business division, said that the rules for the legal cannabis market in San Diego in 2014 may be too restrictive to allow inclusive participation enable in industry.

“We now see that there can be unintended restrictions that cause problems,” said Fitzgerald.

Proposals under consideration include reducing the buffer zone between cannabis companies and sensitive places of consumption, including schools and churches. The San Diego City Council is also considering licensing on-site consumption lounges, removing a cap on pharmacies, and enabling independent delivery services to operate.

“As the city adopts a social justice cannabis program,” said Fitzgerald, “we will certainly need room for growth and expansion, and so we need to investigate changes to the city’s cannabis program.”

Of the 36 pharmacies currently licensed under city regulations, only 23 have been licensed, two of which have not yet opened. At least part of the problem is caused by the requirement that businesses only be located in light industrial areas that are at least 300 meters from schools, churches and other sensitive areas of use. Under state law, cannabis businesses are only 600 feet from such locations.

“Our current zoning framework prevents and discourages many minority and low-income San Diegans from benefiting from an industry that has historically disadvantaged their communities and livelihoods,” said Councilor Stephen Whitburn.

Councilor Sean Elo-Rivera said San Diego’s cannabis regulations should be revised.

“The industry is pretty exclusive at this point,” said Elo-Rivera. “Only those with access to significant capital, lawyers and consultants could compete for an operating license.”

Phil Rath, a lobbyist who represents a coalition of pharmacy owners, said San Diego’s existing operators can support “reasonable expansion” of local industry, but noted that the city still has a robust market for illegal cannabis deals.

“We are careful when it comes to increasing the number of locations so quickly that companies no longer have the chance to compete with the black market, but only to compete with each other and drive each other out of business,” said Rath .

San Diego City Council accepts the state’s Social Justice Grant

Also last month, the San Diego City Council passed a resolution authorizing city officials to enter into an agreement with the governor’s Department of Economic and Development to accept a $ 75,000 grant to support social justice issues to meet for communities that have been disproportionately damaged by the cannabis ban policy. The state grant will fund regulated cannabis cities and local governments to study the impact of previous cannabis criminalization strategies, develop potential funding and goals for a social justice program, and identify barriers to entry in accordance with applicable regulations.

“We are taking deliberate steps to overcome systemic inequalities and barriers to opportunity in all of our neighborhoods, especially those hardest hit by the war on drugs,” Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement. “The grant will help us eliminate inequalities and develop an inclusive and equitable legal cannabis market where everyone has the chance to thrive.”

Funds from the grant will be used to develop policy recommendations to ensure greater social justice as San Diego expands its regulated cannabis industry.

“This grant will provide substantial funding to develop a San Diego-specific cannabis equity program that will support those most disadvantaged by cannabis criminalization in our city through inclusive corporate responsibility and employment strategies in our regulated cannabis industry,” said Fitzgerald.

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