Cannabis policy is confusing. It’s not always clear which activities are legal and which aren’t. It’s especially murky during this transitional time since Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, but left it up to local municipalities to regulate it.

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Voice of San Diego’s recent article on legal cannabis delivery services in San Diego failed to accurately clear up the confusion, and unnecessarily made the entire delivery industry here look shady.

The piece wrongly claimed that the city is “coming for” all delivery businesses that are not part of a currently permitted storefront. Though I was interviewed for the article, the issue of delivery services’ legality was not accurately represented in the final story, and the result is disparaging toward the dozens of delivery operators who are part of our organization, and are working hard to take every step possible toward legitimacy, including the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance’s current appeal to the San Diego City Council.

The reality is that non-storefront-associated delivery operators are currently in the same legal gray area as the rest of the businesses currently cultivating, extracting and manufacturing medical cannabis products within the city limits.

All cannabis entrepreneurs – growers, extractors, edible makers – are waiting for the Sept. 11 San Diego City Council meeting, when the Council will vote on how many permits to issue for each business type. Currently, delivery service permits are not on the docket, and herein lies the problem. Responsible actors have only three weeks to convince city leaders that their livelihoods are worth it, or else the issue will not be revisited for another full year.

By responsible actors, I mean standalone delivery companies operating in compliance with state law as it was written in Proposition 215 and SB 420 –  the policies that governed California’s medical cannabis industry from 1998 until now. Currently, the vast majority of cannabis businesses that are not storefront operations share the same legally gray status as the owners await city licensure. But delivery services are often thought of as illegal because of the frequency of delivery service raids meant to make an example of the irresponsible operators.

It’s true that there are up to 300 unlicensed cannabis delivery services active in San Diego right now, and of course not all of them are responsible actors. Be it trafficking unsafe product, using their company as a front to deliver illicit hard drugs or not paying for basic business taxes and sellers’ permits, there are plenty of mistakes that have been made by delivery services over the years. It’s important, however, that instead of making examples of the bad actors, city leaders instead work to encourage responsible operators to seek licensing through the legal system – no matter their current situation. Otherwise, the black market for fly-by-night delivery companies will continue to thrive, and San Diegans will continue to see stories of raids and bad business.

Please don’t be so quick to lump in all cannabis delivery services with the irresponsible operators you see on the news. Many of the businesses cater to individuals who are homebound because of age, illness or disability.  The services also support the choice of future recreational cannabis consumers to obtain legal pot conveniently and while preserving their privacy.

City leaders should stop demonizing every yet-licensed marijuana business as this complicated transition from black market to regulation is under way.

Elizabeth Wilhelm is CEO of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance.

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