The new San Diego Cannabis Permitting Bureau aims to streamline regulation of the city’s cannabis businesses. The bureau will step up enforcement and explore new ideas like “consumption lounges” and delivery-only services. It may focus on loosening city policies under New Mayor Todd Gloria and a Democrat-dominated City Council.
Some say San Diego had been a regional leader, even a state leader if one looks back to the Prop 215 days. The new bureau aims to foster that leadership by putting together a team of specialists under one roof. The bureau also will focus on amending city policies, exploring new options, as well as hearing from the small but vocal local minority of opposers.
“San Diego is not at the forefront, but we’re not at the tail end either,” said P.J. Fitzgerald, a deputy director in the Development Services Department who is leading the new bureau.
Cannabis is seen by San Diego officials as a growing business they could promote, similar to the booming craft brewing industry. This is possible due to the new leadership of the city and the lack of serious issues with cannabis operators since the city legalized the industry in 2014.
“There is a whole new landscape out there,” Fitzgerald said. “Some perceived concerns from before didn’t happen. Retail stores are operating like regular retail stores.”
City Council approved the bureau and a nearly $1 million budget for eight city workers in the summer of 2020. Just now things are starting to take shape after months of exploring what other cities and states have done with similar cannabis oversight agencies.
The bureau only consists of Fitzgerald and one other staff member but reports the entire staff should be hired in the next three to six months.
The bureau’s focus on enforcement and compliance of city regulations will include checks such as surprise visits to license holders on site. Fitzgerald believes these types of visits “will ensure things are how they should be. If they aren’t, we will take decisive action.”