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Marijuana delivery service supporters rally in September 2017. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate is asking local law enforcement to step up efforts against illegal marijuana deliverers. That could mean legal action against online platforms that assist unregulated businesses.

In a memo to City Attorney Mara Elliott on Tuesday, Cate highlighted Weedmaps, an online marijuana marketplace. He also sent a letter to the Irvine-based company’s vice president of government relations, Dustin McDonald, requesting “your voluntary compliance to cease the advertising of marijuana delivery services considered illegal under San Diego municipal code.”

The company did not return a request for comment.

“Cities, such as Los Angeles, have been successful in the past in shutting down online illegal marijuana delivery platforms through lawsuits,” said Cate, who chairs the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. “This avenue should be furthered explored in the City of San Diego.”

Cate’s communications director, Rebecca Kelley, said a committee staffer met with Weedmaps in August and asked the company to take down any illegal advertisements, but nothing came of it.

On Jan. 1, hundreds of independent drivers in the region — who’d previously operated in a grey part of the law — were officially pushed out of the marketplace. Some have chosen to remain a part of the black market while others are closing their doors for fear that they’ll be barred from the legal industry in the future if caught.

A lucky few have partnered with permitted stores.

San Diego allows up to four retail shops per each of the city’s nine council districts, but zoning restrictions have kept the number low. Of the 17 medical marijuana shops in San Diego, 12 have received the initial greenlight from California regulators.

In the meantime, only the drivers who are employed by a permitted dispensary can make house-calls. In September, the San Diego City Council decided to punt any further discussion of the topic to an unspecified date.

Members of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance have complained about being cut out of an industry that they helped build, seeing the dozen legal outlets as a city-sanctioned oligarchy.

The city’s legal operators say that requiring drivers to go through the same security standards as the retail outlets is reasonable.

Legal action against Weedmaps would likely draw opposition from free speech and digital liberties groups who’ve successfully pointed in other cases to the liability immunity provided to websites through Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act.

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