By Elizabeth Wilhelm
Looking around our city, you would hardly know that marijuana will be legally sold here starting in January.
Due to delays and inaction by city government, San Diego could be the California city least prepared for legal cannabis retail. This is mainly because there are still around 300 unregulated cannabis delivery services active within the city. Most of them pay regular business taxes, and some do not. None will have a chance at legitimization unless the City Council acts soon.
Currently, the only permits set up are retail licenses for the 15 dispensaries. This leaves out businesses who want to grow, manufacture or distribute in the legal market. Though California state law has established a licensing process for standalone delivery services, the San Diego City Council has not. Council members have decided that delivery services are not important enough to be heard out at their Sept. 11 public meeting, where they will finally vote on issuing permits for all of the other supply-chain business types.
These council members could not be more wrong. The reality is that around 50 percent of all cannabis sales in California are made as delivery orders. It’s likely that someone you know has used a cannabis delivery service to obtain medical marijuana.
Delivery services are often depicted as fly-by-night operations, but the truth is that many of us are responsible business owners, stepping up and trying to take every possible step toward legalization. This includes the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance members’ current appeal to the City Council, to consider issuing permits for delivery services.
We differ from traditional dispensaries in several ways that directly benefit the community. Most delivery services currently cater to medical marijuana patients who are homebound because of age, illness, disability or mobility issues.
However, we also support the choice of future recreational consumers to obtain legal cannabis while preserving their privacy and convenience by ordering from a delivery company.
As business owners, we are particularly vulnerable as we wait for the local government to catch up to state law. Jobs, livelihoods and patient welfare are at stake, but we continue to be stigmatized as “illegal businesses” because of the City Council’s inability to properly regulate our side of the industry.
In addition to helping people in a tangible way, allowing delivery services in San Diego would increase cannabis tax revenue for the city, without putting another dispensary on every street corner.
As we complete the complicated transition from black market to regulation, it’s important that we see marijuana business as legitimate business, and recognize the city’s responsibility to set up frameworks for legal cannabis that make sense for the community. If the City Council would care to listen, they would learn the difference between a responsible delivery operator and one that is worthy of a police raid.
It’s important that we encourage responsible delivery service operators to seek licensing through some type of legal system. Otherwise, the black market for underground cannabis delivery companies will continue to thrive in San Diego.
Voters in San Diego overwhelmingly approved cannabis legalization last November. Whether responsible adults choose to wait in line at a storefront, or call for private home delivery, is entirely up to them. The City Council’s failure to fully recognize this issue of supply and demand is nothing more than old fashioned “reefer madness.”
—Elizabeth Wilhelm is president of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance. Visit keepingdeliverylegal.org.