SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas revealed a set of new policies Monday they have drafted to improve economic access and social equity in the cannabis industry intended to expand farming, manufacturing and retail opportunities and create jobs in the unincorporated areas of the county.
"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," Fletcher said.
"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 five operators who are currently operating in the unincorporated area, as well as those who are operating legally elsewhere in our region," he said.
The policies, as stated by Vargas and Fletcher -- which the Board of Supervisors will vote on at its Wednesday meeting -- include:
-- Putting social equity at the center of the cannabis permitting program;
-- Agricultural, farming, retail, manufacturing business expansion;
-- Creating opportunities for people with past cannabis convictions and from communities impacted by the War on Drugs to apply for permits;
-- Creating good-paying jobs through labor peace agreements;
-- No more unpermitted and potentially unsafe cannabis sales and operations;
-- Mandatory distances from schools, places of worship and other places children and families gather; and
-- New code enforcement teams to ensure compliance.
"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 of the 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."
Fletcher proposed a similar policy in 2020, but it failed to get the support of his conservative colleagues, but a new political makeup of the board could change the end result. The policies are part of Fletcher's grand "Framework for the Future of San Diego County" plans, which are intended to prioritize communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind.
"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," said Armand King, COO of Paving Great Futures, a local nonprofit with the mission of providing work experience programs to "misguided young people" to help them transform into community leaders.
"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," King said.