SOCAL: Santee continues effort toward opening cannabis business applications

The Santee City Council voted 3-0 Wednesday to allow stand-alone cannabis manufacturing operations, but banned the use of volatile substances, such as the butane used in cannabis vape products. Vice Mayor Dustin Trotter recused himself from the motion due to a conflict of interest and Mayor John Minto was absent.

During the meeting, staff presented a map of where cannabis retail locations would be allowed, which is primarily in the light industrial and general commercial areas south of state Route 52. The map showed buffer zones around schools, child care facilities, youth centers and religious locations.

The City Council had previously discussed whether to allow cannabis retail locations in neighborhood commercial zones.

 Staff identified two places outside of the planned buffer zones where retail locations could potentially be licensed in the future. Those locations were where Lantern Crest Senior Living is off of Prospect Avenue, as well as the corner of Woodside Avenue and Shadow Hill Road, where Santee Market & Liquor and the Fraternal Order of Eagles are located.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council received an email asking that cannabis dispensaries be prohibited from neighborhood commercial zones from the community group CASA, short for Community Action Service and Advocacy.

In the email, made publicly available with the meeting agenda, CASA Executive Director Dana Stevens pushed for “strict zoning requirements for all cannabis businesses — whether manufacturing, distributing or retail sales — that separates them from family-oriented, child-safe neighborhood commercial uses.”

The council asked staff to remove those two neighborhood commercial zones from the map of allowed locations.

“When we wrote this ordinance, we were very stringent in how we did this — we exceeded the state mandates and guidelines in a lot of cases,” Trotter said.

Trotter said the council had written its original cannabis order to exclude neighborhood commercial zones from being eligible locations for retail shops, adding that he was still against it before the council directed staff to remove those locations.

The council directed staff to develop a cannabis ordinance in March 2021, which was later adopted in August 2022. That ordinance permits up to four cannabis retail locations, with no limits on testing labs or microbusinesses that don’t have a retail store front.

In November 2022, the City Council asked staff to develop an application process, which was presented to the council last month.

The next steps in the process will be to make ordinance changes, to be reviewed during the Feb. 14 City Council meeting. The council will review the draft application process in the spring, and staff is working to secure an agreement with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for background verification services.

Santee Planning and Building Director Sandi Sawa said a California Environmental Quality Act review of the plan may still be necessary.


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