One Month In: San Diego's Pot Report Card - NBC 7 San Diego
In the Weeds

In the Weeds

Marijuana in the Golden State and beyond

One Month In: San Diego's Pot Report Card

Nearly 5,000 people with past felony and misdemeanor marijuana convictions in San Diego County could have their records expunged or downgraded

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    Since legalized recreational marijuana sales kicked in last month there have already been some highs and lows.

    Dispensary owners like Ebon Johnson at Mankind Cooperative have seen a spike in sales. “ I would say sales have been up 50 percent,” Johnson told NBC 7.

    He’s not alone. Owners at a Green Alternative in Otay Mesa have seen sales triple.

    For Johnson, the growing demand has made it difficult to keep edibles - his third best selling product - in stock. “I used to have all this filled and this here used to be rows of edibles,” Johnson said pointing to a wall of snacks.

    And it’s not just retailers trying to keep up, law enforcement officials are too.

    “We have to keep a close eye on cartels, criminal organizations that are using young people,” said San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.

    She says in just the past month, a concerning trend has emerged. Cartels are targeting 15 and 16-year-olds to transport large amounts of marijuana.

    “I have a big concern about protecting kids from becoming enslaved to the cartels. Because what the cartels are telling them is it’s only a misdemeanor, and so they’re encouraging the kids to go into this criminal lifestyle," said Stephan.

    Illegal pot shops popping up is another area of concern - especially in Spring Valley and other unincorporated areas where the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted last year to ban them.

    Last year, 38 cease-and-desist letters were sent out countywide to illegal marijuana dispensaries, according to NBC 7's news partner, the Voice of San Diego. Twenty-one of those letters were issued to addresses in Spring Valley.

    “Illegal dispensaries are able to carry 500-milligram products versus us carrying 100," said Johnson.

    Users seeking potentially higher highs may be part of the allure, said Johnson.

    He also notes lower prices at illegal shops, considering they don’t have to pay the 28 percent tax levied on legalized pot products.

    “If they’re cautious and raise it incrementally and not quick and hasten the amount of taxes, I think we’ll do a good job of stomping out the black market,” said Johnson.

    A former county prosecutor who now has a private practice with several marijuana clients believes in time the black market will go away, noting you have to think of it like alcohol and prohibition. Once there are more legalized shops and costs come down, it will limit the amount of illegal activity.

    Because of the passage of Proposition 64, some 4,700 people with past felony and misdemeanor marijuana convictions in San Diego County could have their records expunged or downgraded.