San Diego

City of San Diego Searching for New Strategies to Crackdown on Illegal Pot Shops

City staff will have 120 days to come up with new strategies to tackle illegal marijuana dispensaries

The Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee voted to have city staff look at new strategies to combat illegal marijuana dispensaries in San Diego.

Staff will have 120 days to report back to the committee about what is currently being done to fight illegal pot shops and what can be done moving forward.

The City of San Diego has worked hard to crackdown on illegal dispensary storefronts over the last several years.

Based on the committee’s report, currently, there are four open cases against illegal dispensaries--compared to nearly 300 open cases back in 2009.

The problem is that illegal pot shops are now moving their business into illegal marijuana delivery services using apps like Weedmaps.

“What we are trying to focus on now is--what we have seen is a shift to local delivery methods. Those folks who are operating illegally are seeing the enforcement of storefronts and they are now shifting their way of conducting business to deliveries," said Councilmember Chris Cate (Dist. 6).

Zach Lazarus, the CEO of "A Green Alternative", the first licensed and legal marijuana dispensary, believes the city is moving in the right direction.

“Patients can get sick, they can have issues eating edibles. Some of the dispensaries aren’t going to card and they are going to sell to minors. The city is trying to protect everyone,” said Lazarus.

Lazarus told NBC 7 it took about a year and a half before his business opened their doors after going through the city’s licensing process.

Right now, there are 14 legal marijuana dispensaries in San Diego and only four are allowed in each district.

The Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is committed to having all dispensaries follow the rules of the city.

“There is going to be an underground market for this and I think what we need to do as a city is say, ‘We accept Prop 64 and we understand that’," Cate said. "Voters and residents are OK with legal outlets but they want to see their city, their jurisdictions combat the illegal ones because those are the ones we don’t know if they are operating by the rules or not and what they are promoting or selling."

He added, "We want to make sure everyone is following the rules, that restrictions are being put on them, that they are going to be good stewards of the public’s trust, good neighbors, and when you have illegal operations that are occurring we don’t know what they are doing."

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