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San Diego County is preparing to see a new wave of cannabis businesses open up in the next several months. The cities of Chula Vista and Vista are about to embark on the process of accepting applications for operators in their respective areas. The cities’ steps forward were prompted by voter ballot measures in the November elections.


Chula Vista

In November, voters in Chula Vista approved Measure Q, allowing the city to implement the proposed ordinance, which was adopted in 2018, to go into effect. Chula Vista has taken advantage of opportunities to learn from other local jurisdictions throughout the state and has diligently worked to draft its Ordinance and Regulations in a thoughtful and detailed manner. Likewise, the city has gone to extensive lengths in providing information to potential applicants about the regulations and the licensing process. On Dec. 13, 2018 eight city officials held a forum, open to the public, to show a sample application and directly answer all questions. According to The Star News, 150 participants pre-registered to attend.

The high attendance of the forum was not a surprise given the serious interest of those wanting to take advantage of one of the few cities in San Diego County that are issuing licenses. While some of the applicants have deep roots in the community, there are also several applicants seeking to simply make their mark in Southern California. There is a lot of outside interest in Chula Vista because the city’s ordinance requires an owner to either have a year as an owner of a licensed cannabis business, 36 months of ownership in an alcohol business or own a business in Chula Vista with 10 or more employees. Similarly, the city has other restrictive requirements which include employing a manager with cannabis experience, $250,000 in liquid assets, and providing an extensive business plan and operating plan to speak to the applicant’s compatibility with the city’s goals.

The Chula Vista application is a merit-based system, under which applicants will be awarded varying points and applications will be ranked in order to issue the limited licenses. The city will issue three retail licenses per district, no more that 2 of which can be storefront retailers, and 10 cultivation licenses. Phase 1 of the application for retail and cultivators began on Jan. 14 and remained open for five days until Jan. 18. Additionally, the city will issue an uncapped number of manufacturing, distribution and testing licenses. The initial application period for manufacturers, distributors, testing laboratories was between Jan. 14 through Jan. 25. Those licenses that are selected from Phase 1 will move onto Phase 2.

“The cities’ steps forward were prompted by voter ballot measures in the November elections.”



The voters in the City of Vista also approved ballot Measure Z on election day. Measure Z allowed the city to implement a regulatory system to issue licenses to up to 11 medical retail cannabis dispensaries and tax those businesses.

The city of Vista’s cannabis regulations are much more restrictive than Chula Vista in that Vista only allows for medical dispensaries. Similarly, the city has limited zones in which a dispensary can be located. Nevertheless, we applaud any progress and hopefully a successful launch will be a great example for future expansion. The city of Vista accepted applications between Jan. 22-29. It is important to know that the city of Vista accepted applications on a first in time priority, so applicants were encouraged to submit as soon as the application window opened. The city accepted applications for seven days and marked each application with a time stamp. Later, the city will the post a priority list of all the time stamped applications and process applications according to the time they were received and the first applicants to meet all the requirements will be awarded the licenses. The city requires applicants to submit a $100,000 deposit to go towards processing applications and security and compliance measures throughout the application process. Additionally, the city requires that the applicant has been in business for a minimum of six months prior to being issued a business license, and submit a detailed security plan and a site plan.

The implementation of Chula Vista and Vista’s cannabis regulated systems is warmly welcomed. Having additional cities come on board legitimizes the regulated system, and cities throughout San Diego County are looking forward to working with more licensed operators in 2019.