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Op-Ed: Why San Diego Should Follow Chula Vista's Example

[Article Originally Published on Voice of San Diego ]

The people have spoken and they want their meals, groceries, technology and other essential products delivered to their doorstep in sixty minutes or less.

Is this a symptom of the modern consumer’s desire for instant gratification and a byproduct of their inherent laziness? I’d argue the opposite. Today’s shopper is highly evolved and efficient with how they spend their time.

In California, the newest commodity to be engulfed by the convenience of the delivery model is medical and adult use cannabis. Consumers view cannabis no differently than they do a pair of headphones from Amazon or a large poke salad from DoorDash. We want to place an order from our smartphone and trust that it will be delivered to us promptly and in good condition.

By not having to worry, or think too much about a purchase, we free up our brain to focus on activities we deem more important and beneficial to our overall happiness and well-being.

Cannabis retail stores are certainly awe-inspiring, secure and historic – but in many cities, they are also few and far between. With only 14 licensed storefronts currently operating in cities like San Diego, the scarcity of these storefronts means that consumers must deal with crowded lobbies, limited parking and longer than usual wait times.

All of which creates a nightmare scenario for the modern shopper, and after a few visits to the licensed store, the novelty of buying legal weed wears off. Locals quickly resort back to their on-demand delivery-only pipeline, often giving little thought as to whether that reliable pipeline is licensed or unlicensed.

The unlicensed, underground cannabis world currently accounts for a large percentage of delivery services operating throughout San Diego. This is partly due to the fact that the city and its surrounding municipalities (excluding Chula Vista) have been dragging their feet on regulating delivery-only businesses.

Secondly, unless you have access to millions of dollars in capital, the chances of surviving the stringent and extensive licensing process in San Diego is slim to none. This has left many cannabis small business owners with nowhere to go except underground. This is not the ideal situation for officials, consumers or cannabis entrepreneurs; Proposition 64 promised to erase the black market, not strengthen it.

So, what’s the solution? It’s simple: Create more opportunity by drastically increasing the number of licensed outlets that are legally allowed to sell medical and adult use cannabis to qualified consumers.

This does not mean that cities must allow cannabis storefronts on every corner. Quite the opposite. The state, in the eleventh hour, created a type 9 delivery license that has given cities the power to approve locations that are delivery-only.

Chula Vista’s recently proposed cannabis ordinance, that will be voted on February 6, includes a pathway for aspiring delivery services to receive a local type 9 delivery-only license. If the ordinance is passed, as currently stands, it will be a resounding victory for small business owners anxious to be recognized in the brave new world of cannabis compliance in California.

Chula Vista is preparing for a bright and prosperous future. Thankfully, if its proposed cannabis ordinance is passed and implemented, the city should receive an estimated $5 million in taxes annually from these newly licensed businesses. Those added tax dollars should greatly assist Chula Vista in continuing to fund future expansions such as the Bayfront and on-going renovations to downtown’s fashionable Third Avenue Village.

As a citizen that resides in San Diego, I applaud Chula Vista’s forward-thinking efforts in allowing delivery-only businesses to begin paying their fair share of tax dollars and, in essence, granting them the opportunity to compete, on a level playing field, with other licensed and regulated cannabis businesses currently in operation.

It seems logical that San Diego, with a population of over 1.4 million, should look to Chula Vista for inspiration and eventually follow the lead of their partner to the south, by amending the city’s current ordinance and creating a reasonable pathway forward for small business delivery service owners wishing to successfully operate.

Give customers the ability to pick and choose and allow for cannabis businesses to compete, innovate and improve.