Pot delivery services optimistic in Chula Vista

"We're kind of 'out of sight, out of mind."

 San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance members
  • San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance members

After being rebuffed by San Diego's city council, marijuana delivery businesses seeking legitimacy may have found a savior to the south in Chula Vista.

"Local permitting provides a path to a state license, which is what we're fighting for," explains Manny Biezunski of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance. "Before the state issues a license you need to be licensed locally, and there's nowhere within San Diego, city or county, where you can get a local delivery license, even though the state offers one."

Things may be changing soon in Chula Vista. Following four contentious hours of commentary and debate on February 27, the city council there voted to move forward with a proposal to regulate cannabis sales and cultivation within the community, ultimately passing a measure on a 4-1 vote that would allow up to 12 dispensaries within the city — at least four of the licenses up for grabs are reserved for delivery services.

"We're filling a niche, focusing more on the medical side of operations," Biezunski says. “This includes people who either can't or don't want to go into a storefront for a lot of different reasons. We also believe delivery is the future of the industry — when everything becomes branded and pre-packaged, as it will in July, people won't necessarily have to go into a store to inspect what they're purchasing. Take flower [conventional trimmed marijuana plant matter], you won't be able to see or smell the product in the sealed package as well, but you'll know from the branding who you're buying from and what you're getting."

Biezunski's group was less effective in arguing for a change in classification that would have likened delivery services to cultivation and manufacturing facilities.

"They're treating delivery services like we're retail storefronts, but we'd like to be taken out of that category because we have no public location. We're kind of 'out of sight, out of mind' and can operate in a location without anyone even realizing we're there."

Chula Vista's council went in with no regulatory cap on the number of marijuana processing facilities, the type the alliance would like to be grouped with. But in political horse-trading following a protracted debate, the proposed law's language ended the night with limitations allowing no more than ten such facilities within city limits.

While city recognition allows the delivery services to legally establish a home base somewhere, the state license is key in establishing legitimacy for operators who have been operating in a legal limbo since the passage of Prop 64 in 2016. It also allows them to conduct business just about anywhere they'd like, with a driver leaving Chula Vista permitted to make drops in other cities or in unincorporated county territory, with the exception of cities that have specifically prohibited delivery drivers from doing business with city residents.

Even that may soon change.

"There are some outright bans within the county such as in Escondido and Carlsbad, but a bill was just introduced that would block cities from stopping deliveries," says Biezunski. "Basically, you can stop businesses from locating within a municipality, but you can't tell your residents that they can't receive a delivery from a licensed facility."

Despite accepting regulatory language in concept, considerable roadblocks — including a lengthy review process — remain before any type of pot shop can open for business in Chula Vista.

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