Backcountry pot stores expand under new San Diego County cannabis law


Unincorporated San Diego County cannabis stores were given the green light to expand on Wednesday after the supervisory board passed a split decision to allow them to increase the size of the facilities and the product line they they propose.

The second reading of a new ordinance finalizes a decision taken earlier this month by the board of directors to remove the expiration date of the licenses of five hinterland dispensaries and allow them to expand their activities up to 10,000 square feet without undergoing environmental review.

They will also be able to supply marijuana for adult recreational use, not just for medical purposes, and will now be able to sell edibles and drinks as well as branded merchandise.

Supervisors say this is the first step in an overhaul of the board’s policy on marijuana dispensaries that would allow more businesses in unincorporated counties and open access to owners of minorities and women.

Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Nora Vargas, Joel Anderson and Terra Lawson-Remer voted in favor of the measure.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, who opposed the changes when the board reviewed them on October 6, voted against the new law on Wednesday, arguing that its exemption from environmental reviews offers preferential treatment to dispensaries that is not not granted to other companies.

“I have not been a fan of these dispensaries in the unincorporated zone,” he said. “But it’s really hard for me to believe that the board can approve, and the planning staff recommend, a California Environmental Quality Act exemption for expansion up to 10,000 square feet.”

Desmond said it’s likely that expanding a cannabis store up to five times could affect the parking, traffic, greenhouse gases, water and public safety of surrounding communities. The exemption from the ordinance states that there would be no impact of these changes that would require mitigation.

“I don’t know how we can find out for sure,” Desmond said. “We are increasing the size, changing the use and intensity, creating smoking bars and restaurants with edibles. “

Dispensaries should go through the same sitemap process that is required for other businesses when expanding, he said.

Speakers at the supervisors’ meeting said they were concerned about potential environmental issues in the neighborhoods surrounding the dispensaries and urged county officials to develop better enforcement processes to ensure that products made from them of marijuana are not available to teenagers.

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