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San Diego works to level playing field in marijuana industry

The city wants to hear from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego is working to break down barriers people face when entering the marijuana industry. 

The city is hoping to level the playing field for residents wanting to work in the marijuana business or one day own a dispensary.

"We're wanting to have a conversation with our community about what the barriers are and what the impacts of cannabis criminalization have been on communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs," said Lara Gates, the Cannabis Business Deputy Director for San Diego.

The city wants to talk with people and families impacted by marijuana convictions and learn what obstacles they face. 

Some people may need to go through an expungement process to clear their record or lessen convictions. These conversations will happen at listening sessions taking place around San Diego. This includes Sherman Heights, North Park and City Heights.

"The areas selected have been ones that have historically seen disinvestment," she said.

San Diego is allowed to have 36 dispensaries and Gates said there are 10 dispensary permits left. 

The city is hoping to open the door and make it more equitable for community members to get a license. Despite the fact the drug is legal for adult recreational use, a majority of sales in San Diego are still done illegally.

"80% of the cannabis market is the legacy market here in San Diego which means it's illegal. We are really trying to broaden and open up avenues for folks still participating in the legacy market to become part of the legal market," she said.

There will be eight in-person and one virtual listening session. 

The first session is Monday, May 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Sherman Heights Community Center. Find a full list of the listening sessions, here.

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