Cities across San Diego County and beyond are starting to grapple with whether pot businesses and other pot-related activities like cultivation and manufacturing should be allowed within their borders.

Even if you broadly agree pot businesses should be allowed – and that’s a big if! – there are plenty of sticking points various governments will have to sort out, like how much security each business should have, how far they must be from schools, whether they should be allowed to deliver. The list goes on.

There’s one requirement government officials seem eager to place on anyone opening a pot-related business, though, that hasn’t gotten enough attention in San Diego – and that’s barring people with felony convictions from owning pot businesses. This might sound on its face like a reasonable way to keep out bad actors. It’s not.

As one attorney pointed out in the Union-Tribune this week, in reaction to proposed regulations from City Councilman Chris Cate, barring people with felony convictions “could disproportionately affect minorities who are more frequently charged with drug crimes;” she suggested “Cate should only bar people with felony convictions involving violence or business-related conduct.”

In a VOSD op-ed this week, a Chula Vista city councilman urged his colleagues to write regulations that would “include prohibiting felons or those who have operated an illegal dispensary in Chula Vista.”

The problem with excluding felons in this case is that California and other states have decided pot shouldn’t be illegal. And even when it was illegal, we know enforcement was wildly disproportionate, and impacted minorities the worst.

Here’s how Amanda Chicago Lewis described the problem for Buzzfeed:

Even though research shows people of all races are about equally likely to have broken the law by growing, smoking, or selling marijuana, black people are much more likely to have been arrested for it. Black people are much more likely to have ended up with a criminal record because of it. And every state that has legalized medical or recreational marijuana bans people with drug felonies from working at, owning, investing in, or sitting on the board of a cannabis business. After having borne the brunt of the “war on drugs,” black Americans are now largely missing out on the economic opportunities created by legalization.

Oakland is one city that has recognized the potential that these policies could shut minority business owners out, and has gone in the opposite direction: It actually prioritizes business owners with convictions for marijuana crimes when they apply for licenses.

Following Oakland’s lead would send a strong message that San Diego believes in economic opportunity for all its residents. But if it’s not going to prioritize people with marijuana convictions on their record, at the very least, it shouldn’t shut them out altogether.

What VOSD Learned This Week

When it comes to law enforcement hiring and firing, the processes are often shielded from public view.

This week, Mario Koran describes a rare public look at how Sheriff’s Department firings work, and reveals that on occasion, the sheriff is forced to keep problem officers on the job against his will.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Police Department is beginning a search for a new chief to replace Shelley Zimmerman when she retires. But neither the candidates, nor the hiring committee, will be made public, which has drawn concerns from city and community leaders.


Lisa Halverstadt read all the various housing plans from city officials so you don’t have to – and discovered some points of agreement among all of them that could be a catalyst for policy changes.

Though the mayor has outlined a housing plan, there’s one big housing issue on which he’s stayed on the sidelines: the years-long debate over how to regulate vacation rentals.

And an update on an issue we told you about last week: A public restroom that was being kept locked – even as a hepatitis A outbreak ravages the homeless community – is now open.


Poway ousted its superintendent last year over what the district says was hundreds of thousands in improper payments, but a new audit says funds are still vulnerable to fraud.

In other schools news, districts across the state are rolling out new sex ed curriculum in accordance with state law. But Maya Srkrishnan discovered the state sometimes doesn’t offer guidance to districts on how to roll out new curriculum until long after that curriculum is supposed to be in place.


Bad business news: The Glashaus in Barrio Logan will shut its doors, leaving many artists with studios there scrambling to find affordable space.

Good business news: The founder of Feetz, a local company that makes 3D-printed shoes, describes how she built a business from the ground up in the latest episode of our new podcast, I Made it in San Diego.


How much do San Diego water officials hate the Metropolitan Water District? They’re considering a $6 billion pipeline to the Colorado River that would help the agency gain independence from Met.

What I’m Reading

 Bite mark analysis, fire burn patters, tire treads, shoe prints: Junk science behind all of them has helped convict an untold number of innocent people. (Associated Press)

 This piece on what’s happening within the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Ben Carson confirms every worst nightmare about a completely unqualified person being handed a federal agency. (ProPublica)

 This is a stunning series on how the Taser has transformed American policing – and how it’s far from the “non-lethal” option it’s often billed as. (Reuters)

 An amazing, haunting read on the origins of Dylann Roof’s racial hatred. (GQ)

 There is one aspect of this season of “Game of Thrones” that has been unquestionably perfect, and that is the power ladies’ outfits. The principal embroiderer for the show – what a badass title! – shares the secrets behind the Dornish ladies’ organza dresses, the scaling on Dany’s tunics and more. (New Yorker)

 Liam Gallagher rates his haircuts. (NME)

Line of the Week

“Ms. Wolfe said she wished her own lifestyle allowed her to spend 20 minutes eating a green bean.” – From a story on how sloths now have so many devoted fans that zoos can’t keep up with demand.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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