San Diego Must Halt its Land-Use Policies Restricting Cannabis Retail in ‘Minority’ Communities

by on March 23, 2022 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, San Diego

Weedmap, March 2022

By Terrie Best, San Diego Chapter Americans for Safe Access

In this era of social justice most non-profits who advocate for marginalized people began to look for the most vulnerable within the marginalized people they serve.

Illness societies would find their most in need are likely BIPOC and those living in poverty. All nonprofits should try to reach those people within who are less able to gather resources as successfully as others due to barriers of race, language or economics.

Over a decade ago, when the medical cannabis patient advocacy group I volunteer for, San Diego Americans for Safe Access, was pleading for access to medical cannabis and San Diego City and County were struggling to regulate medical cannabis retail outlets, SDASA should have looked at BIPOC and marginalized neighborhoods with much more care.

In the city, we heard patients’ voices lamenting that retail collectives were ending up in industrial areas where no people lived but we did not see this as a race issue. It was. With regard to the county’s efforts to regulate, bureaucrates simply wanted to place a de facto ban using land use restrictions because they thought they could be sued if they didn’t regulate.

The county ban- without-saying-ban worked so well only five cannabis retail collectives have opened since the land use ordinance passed, leaving thousands without medicinal cannabis.

Restrictive land use policy was used to keep medical cannabis out of minority and high density areas. Buffer zones, caps per district and qualification restrictions all contributed to excluding the marginalized not only from entry to the industry but from obtaining cannabis medicine conveniently in their districts.  Policies that restrict access don’t affect folks with cars and a little more time to devote, it drastically affected poor patients and BIPOC.

The county’s five retail cannabis outlets are not an industry.  The county has no cannabis “industry” to correct with inclusive policies. In order to establish social equity in the industry, as the county has promised, there needs to be a drastic change to the land use policies. That is the equitable fix that is needed.

Because of zoning restrictions three of the five county retailers are in Ramona and the other two are in industrial areas of El Cajon and Escondido. There is very little room to create inclusivity when no more permits are available and the land use restrictions for cannabis businesses are akin to that of a chemical plant and massive amounts of resources are needed to start up.

Meanwhile, the city map of retail outlets shows very few shops  in low income areas and huge swaths of safe access deserts. This has the effect of excluding low income people from the umbrella of legal cannabis — and it must stop.  It is not just that BIPOC don’t hold the coveted permits, but that BIPOC can’t avail themselves of convenient access to the medicine they are entitled to in the same manner as those with transportation.

Because municipalities regulated cannabis as if it were a vice instead of a medicine, we have this inequity by-design. Unfortunately, current cannabis permit holders would like to see the inequity remain or at least they seek to control how any new permits will be granted to fix the inequities.

If inner-city permits are coming, as the city indicates, those permits will be more valuable than others held by current permit holders.  Current permits are held in low traffic industrial areas but the permit holders want the inner city permits too. Which is of course at odds with the basic tenets of social equity.

Why should current stakeholders have more stake? Why should current stakeholders control social equity?

I don’t think they should and if we are to right this wrong, we must reduce the barriers and allow minority communities to populate their own neighborhoods with the kind of permit holders that look like them.

Not all cannabis stores want to be Apple stores. Options, diversity and a stop to the monopoly will go a long way to righting the wrongs of the drug war. Otherwise, it’s just talk and more of the same.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Philman March 23, 2022 at 2:57 pm

Excellent article. Terrie and ASA speak for the patients, whose voices need to be heard loud and clear!


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