Back country pot shops to expand under new San Diego County cannabis law – The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego — 

Cannabis shops in unincorporated San Diego County got the green light to expand Wednesday after the Board of Supervisors voted in a split decision to allow them to increase facility size and the range of products they offer.

The second reading of a new ordinance finalizes a decision the board made earlier this month to remove the sunset date from the permits of five back country dispensaries and allow them to expand their businesses by up to 10,000 square feet without undergoing an environmental review.

They also will be able to provide marijuana for adult recreational use, not just medical purposes, and can now sell edible and drinkable products as well as branded merchandise.

Supervisors say it’s the first step in an overhaul of the board’s policy toward marijuana dispensaries, which would permit more of the businesses in unincorporated county areas and open access to minority and women owners.

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 considered them on Oct. 6, voted against the new law Wednesday, arguing that its exemption from environmental reviews provides preferential treatment to dispensaries that is not afforded to other businesses.

“I’ve been no fan of these dispensaries in the unincorporated area,” 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 shop as much as five-fold could affect the parking, traffic, greenhouse gases, water and public safety of surrounding communities. The exemption in the ordinance declares there would be no impact from those changes that would require mitigation.

“I don’t know how we can know that with certainty,” Desmond said. “We’re increasing the size, changing the use and intensity, creating smoking bars and restaurants with edibles.”

The dispensaries should go through the same site plan process required of other businesses when expanding, he said.

Speakers at the supervisors meeting said they are concerned about potential environmental issues in neighborhoods surrounding the dispensaries and they urged county officials to develop better enforcement processes to make sure marijuana products aren’t available to teens.