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October 28, 2021

Internet Business Newswire

Global Business News

San Diego County extends timeline for introducing new cannabis permits

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors had planned to roll out a new permitting process for cannabis businesses in six months, but they decided Wednesday to push that back.

An overhaul of cannabis permits in unincorporated county areas will take extra time, county officials said, as the county seeks more public input and considers what level of environmental review the new program would require.

“I don’t think we can do this by June,” Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said. “I am supportive of us being a little more methodical.”

According to a board letter, the proposed polices under consideration would create a permitting system that would have a social equity component to it, which would give Black and other minority applicants priority access to the permits if they are from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

Supervisor Joel Anderson said he wants local planning groups and community organizations to have a role in plans to permit new marijuana businesses.

“Four of the five current open, legal dispensaries are in my district,” Anderson said.

“I put a lot of time and thought into it. I wanted to make sure that there is local control, local input. Last week I invited every local county planning group chair to meet with me on Zoom.”

Anderson said that pandemic restrictions and lack of internet access have made it difficult for many of those groups in rural areas to meet virtually over the past year. He said they should have more time and opportunity to discuss the issues.

He added that the county owes it to existing cannabis business owners to reauthorize their permits, which are set to expire in 2022.

“We made a commitment, before my time as a board, to allow these establishments to start,” Anderson said. “I think we have a moral obligation to restore them to where they are.”

Board members asked county staff to analyze whether the new cannabis permitting program requires an Environmental Impact Report, a thorough and complex environmental document, or if the program can be passed with a simpler review of environmental effects.

Supervisor Jim Desmond objected to the permitting plan when the board introduced it in January, citing concerns about the health and safety impacts of expanding cannabis businesses. He voted against the changes Wednesday as well, but said he supports additional public input.

“I’m not in favor of dispensaries popping up in unincorporated communities,” he said. “I would support planning groups being part of the permitting process.”

Under the county’s new timeline, the board will receive a progress report from staff in 90 days and consider options for an ordinance in 180 days, but there’s no final timeline set for adoption.

The board voted 4-1 in favor of the change, with Desmond dissenting.