SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County’s Board of Directors voted 4-1 on Wednesday to approve zone changes that would allow five existing medical marijuana companies to expand their facilities and begin selling recreational cannabis products.
Located in unincorporated communities, the five facilities can now sell edibles, potable marijuana products, and branded items, expand 10,000 square feet, and transfer business licenses between existing permit holders.
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The five facilities previously classified as nonprofit medical marijuana collectives are:
- Runaway Collective, 8157 Wing Ave., El Cajon;
- Ramona Cannabis Co., 736 Montecito Way, Ramona;
- Releaf Meds, 618 Pine St., Ramona;
- Olive Tree Wellness Center / JAXX Cannabis, 1210 Olive St., Ramona; and
- San Diego Natural / OutCo, 8530 Nelson Way, Escondido.
The regulators also approved a process that allows the five pharmacies to voluntarily meet community design requirements – with the support of the county planning and development department – and use groundwater along with community sources for cultivation.
In June, the board voted that the five facilities could be operated beyond an earlier “sunset date” of April 14, 2022.
Four years ago, regulators voted to ban cannabis businesses in the unincorporated region of the county.
CEO Nathan Fletcher described the process as a “multi-year journey”.
He added that Wednesday’s action was to “take five people who have been dragged around for years” and clarify their status.
But supervisor Jim Desmond, who voted against the zoning changes, said larger facilities mean greater risk.
As someone representing non-incorporated territories, Desmond said, “he doesn’t hear a cry for more pharmacies”.
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Desmond also raised concerns about expanding the facilities without meeting certain community design guidelines, which other types of businesses found it unfair.
“We’re opening a Pandora’s box here,” he said. “I don’t want to see how we implement a new policy here.”
During a one-hour public hearing, regulators heard from both industry representatives and opponents of further liberalization of the county’s marijuana policy.
Greg McCluskey of the Ramona Cannabis Company said the facility expansion will improve access for medical marijuana patients, especially cancer patients.
McCluskey added that his company is committed to social justice and helping women and minorities in their business.
Ren Bowden of Jaxx Cannabis said his company is “very proud of our work. Our loyal patients are as diverse as the community that surrounds us. “
Bowden said his company will work with the Ramona Community Planning Group and is also involved in Paving Great Futures, a nonprofit that works with underserved or marginalized residents.
Becky Rapp, a member of the Ramona Community Planning Group, said she couldn’t believe the county would change the rules for just five pharmacies. No other company has received this type of privilege, she said, adding that the board’s actions “remove all oversight and accountability” by planning groups.
KC Strang, a San Marcos Prevention Coalition official, said it was a contradiction for the county to ban flavored tobacco but allow cannabis edibles to be sold.
“We are concerned that this decision is not based on the health of our public,” he added.
County resident Mark Wilcox asked if it was worth investing the county government’s time and resources in facilitating the expansion of the marijuana facility.
“Let’s look for solutions to the mental crisis in our county,” he added.
One woman told supervisors that edible foods are unregulated and there are no upper limits on THC levels, which is “a recipe for disaster”. She added that the amount of THC in edible and drinkable products needs to be limited.
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Regulators will also consider a social justice program for the cannabis industry in unincorporated communities, though this may not be ready for approval until next year.
In August, the board unanimously approved increased prosecution of illegal marijuana deals in unincorporated areas.
Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.
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