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San Diego Gains Early Lead In Cannabis Retail Licenses

A pile of dried cannabis buds is seen here, Aug. 31, 2017.
Andrew Bowen
A pile of dried cannabis buds is seen here, Aug. 31, 2017.

One week after state regulators began issuing temporary licenses to sell recreational cannabis, San Diego has received more of those licenses than any other city in California.

Seven marijuana dispensaries in San Diego have been granted temporary licenses to sell both medicinal and "adult use" cannabis to consumers, as of Friday morning. Only San Jose had more licenses granted, because some businesses there have registered as wholesale cannabis distributors in addition to retailers.

Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, said the state had received some 700 applications for temporary licenses.


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"We're seeing more and more people apply every day, so obviously there's a lot of excitement," he said. "Everybody wants to be ready to go on January 1st."

Traverso added that BCC staff were going to be working weekends through the end of the year to process as many applications as possible.

The temporary licenses expire on May 1, giving the BCC time to give the businesses a more thorough vetting before they issue annual licenses. The BCC licenses only cannabis retailers, distributors, testing facilities and so-called microbusinesses, which are vertically integrated to grow, process, distribute and sell marijuana on a small scale.

Licenses to manufacture cannabis products are being issued by the California Department of Public Health, while the California Department of Food and Agriculture is taking care of cultivation licenses. As of Friday morning, the CDFA had issued 62 cultivation licenses — more than a third of which were in the so-called "Emerald Triangle" of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties.


RELATED: Sorrento Valley Marijuana Business Granted California's First Temporary Recreational License

California voters last year approved Proposition 64, which set the state for the legalization of recreational cannabis sales in 2018. Some aspects of the law have already taken effect: It is currently legal to possess, consume, share and grow small amounts of cannabis. A number of people charged with crimes that were made legal after the election have had charges dropped or downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors.

Commercial cannabis sales become legal Jan. 1. Starting then, licensed cannabis businesses are forbidden from doing business with unlicensed operations. Industry experts have warned that retailers may have difficulty stocking their shelves because the cannabis supply chain is further behind in establishing a legal and regulated market.

There is also a dearth of cannabis testing labs entering the legal market. As of Friday morning, only five businesses in the state had received licenses to test cannabis for safety and potency. Only one of those laboratories was in southern California.

Traverso said about 20 labs had submitted applications for testing licenses so far.