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Social Justice Leaders, Farmers & Retailers are High on New Equitable Cannabis Policies for San Diego County

01/25/21

Chair Nathan Fletcher & Vice Chair Nora Vargas’ economic access and social equity cannabis policies will expand farming, manufacturing and retail opportunities; and create good paying jobs in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Today during a virtual press conference, the policies were championed by the San Diego County Farm Bureau, Paving Great Futures and cannabis retailer March and Ash. 

“The San Diego County Farm Bureau supports the legalization of cultivation of cannabis in the unincorporated community because this is an agricultural commodity that we need market access to,” said Hannah Gbeh, Executive Director, San Diego County Farm Bureau. “Our agricultural community is a specialty crop community. We are always doing more with less. Growing the highest value dollar crops available. We need market access to the cannabis market and we need a legal structured framework so our growing community can access this commodity.”   

Armand King, Chief Operating Officer, Paving Great Futures said, “Not only have marginalized communities been disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs; they have also been locked out of accessing avenues to generational wealth within the cannabis industry. We consider this Social Equity program to be a form of recognition and restitution for San Diego’s underserved communities. Our country and our community have perpetuated unjust systems for too long, and this is an opportunity for us to make a tangible and lasting change in our county.” 

“March and Ash’s founders - we all grew up in Jamul, where I still live with my wife and kids.,” said Bret Peace, General Counsel, March and Ash. “Nathan and Nora are committed to the hard work of engaging industry and community stakeholders, so we get this right. The end product must deliver real equity opportunity and ensure growth is measured by improving the communities we serve.   Broad stakeholder engagement in developing the final regulatory framework is critical to getting there. March and Ash employs more than 300 workers in San Diego and Imperial Counties, most of them members of the UFCW Local 135. We’re all ready to support this important effort for our industry and region.”

The policies being proposed will foster economic access and social equity in the cannabis industry and rectify the devastating impact the war on drugs has had on Black and Brown communities. The proposed policies include:  

  • Putting social equity at the center of the cannabis permitting program 
  • Agricultural, farming, retail, manufacturing business expansion 
  • Create opportunities for people with past cannabis convictions and from communities impacted by the War on Drugs to apply for permits
  • Create good-paying jobs through labor peace agreements
  • No more unpermitted and potentially unsafe cannabis sales and operations in our communities
  • Mandatory distances from schools, places of worship and other places children and families gather 
  • New code enforcement teams to ensure compliance

“We know that many communities have been devastated by the War on Drugs and disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. We seek to undo these past wrongs by centering social justice at the core of our cannabis approach,” said Chair Fletcher.  We are bringing forward policy that allows for safe, regulated, and legal cannabis products. Right now, we have unlicensed operations with potentially unsafe products being sold in the unincorporated area. This harms the 5 operators who are currently operating in the unincorporated area, as well as those who are operating legally elsewhere in our region.”

Chair Fletcher proposed a similar policy in 2020, but it failed to get the support of his conservative colleagues, but now he has a new, majority progressive Board of Supervisors. 

Vice Chair Vargas, who is co-authoring the policies stated, "This Board Letter will allow for cannabis access in San Diego County as well as create a social equity program to remove financial barriers and assist in economic entrepreneurship for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Moreover, by creating and supporting a safe, regulated, and legal cannabis industry, the County will reduce the demand for the unlicensed cannabis dispensaries and provide new economic opportunities for our communities during a pandemic-induced recession."

This policy aligns with Supervisor Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Supervisor Fletcher is fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, community-centered criminal justice, and fundamental changes to county operations.