San Diego: Supervisors OK Cannabis Review Policy, Changes For Existing Facilities

County supervisors Wednesday approved by a 4-1 vote an environmental review process for commercial cannabis operations in unincorporated areas, allowing for future expansion.

As required by the state Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the board voted to require a program environmental impact report (PEIR). The two-year PEIR process would cover all potential uses including retail, distribution, testing, manufacturing, indoor and outdoor cultivation, and microbusinesses.

According to the county Land Use & Environment department, the review process “would cover the broadest scope of cannabis operations … (and) begins the work to open the cannabis industry’s commercial opportunities to more businesses.”

As the county moves closer to voting on a revamped marijuana policy, Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher described Wednesday’s action as a challenge.

“This is not easy to align all these various components and parts” in crafting new ordinances, Fletcher said, adding he was “really pleased to see our county moving forward on this issue.” He said it was also important to step up enforcement on unlicensed dispensaries.

In related actions, supervisors voted 4-1 to direct staff to develop ordinance changes and CEQA-related exemptions for five existing cannabis facilities in unincorporated county areas — Outliers Collective in El Cajon; Ramona Cannabis Company and Releaf Meds, both in Ramona; and OutCo and San Diego Natural Inc., both in San Diego.

The changes would allow the permit holders to operate past April 14, 2022; expand their facilities up to 10,000 square feet; transfer business licenses; and sell edibles and drinkable cannabis products. The revisions will be presented to the board for final approval in October.

Several facility owners told supervisors the changes were needed.

Ren Bowden, of San Diego Releaf, said that even though the Board of Supervisors voted in 2017 to ban cannabis businesses in the unincorporated parts of the county, his store added a sidewalk and street lights in an effort to be responsible.

“We’ve been able to document everything,” Bowden said. “We are all learning together, and that’s understandable because this is a new industry. We’re asking to be granted the rights we had originally.”

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