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In 1996, California famously became the first US state to legalize cannabis, but for medicinal use only. It took until 2016 for laws to be passed that now allow cannabis to be legally used for recreational use in California. There are certain provisos attached involving the amount an individual can possess and its chemical constituents, but California is just one of many US  states that have legalized the substance, with many more having decriminalized possession and others in the process of doing so.

How has this affected the cannabis industry in the city of San Diego? It’s an interesting question, and for a number of reasons. Before we look at the San Diego situation in more detail, let’s have a look at the actual laws covering recreational cannabis in California.

California Cannabis Laws

It is important, at this stage, that the difference between the two main strains of cannabis are understood. The plant – Cannabis sativa – has been cultivated for many decades. One strain is known as hemp. Sometimes known as industrial hemp, it is used in the manufacture of many fabrics, ropes and more, and is an extremely versatile product. This strain of cannabis is very high in CBD, which is one of the compounds of the cannabis plant. It is very low in another, known as THC. THC is the psychoactive element in cannabis.

The second strain of cannabis is what we know as marijuana, or weed. This has been cultivated to have high levels of THC and lower CBD constituents. What is important to understand at this point is that in California – and in San Diego – it is still illegal to possess, smoke or cultivate cannabis with more than 3% THC content. This applies under federal law right across the USA. However, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act was passed by California voters in 2016, which means it is now legal to possess and smoke marijuana in California.

So, what does this all mean? Simply, it means that any individual over the age of 21 in California may possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and may grow up to 6 plants for their personal recreational use. They can also give it away without fear or prosecution – but not sell it without a licence – and may smoke it where permitted. 

So, how does this new law affect the San Diego cannabis industry?

Cannabis and San Diego

Some 60% of the cannabis consumed across the USA is grown in an area of California known as the ‘Emerald Triangle’, and this has been the case for some time. The legalization of cannabis cultivation – to those whoa re granted a licence to grow – is expected to see the cannabis industry in San Diego change considerably.

At the time of writing, the black market for cannabis is still strong, and most is still bought this way. This is mainly because of the time it takes to get licences and put a retail outlet – or aa growing station – into action.

However, this is a potentially booming business, and one that is due to develop very quickly. One licenced  store – San Diego Recreational Cannabis – is already seeing growth, with 30 employees in its retail division and aims to expand. A spokesman for them explains that it is not just the retail element where jobs will be created, but in manufacturing and cultivation, in dispatch and delivery, in security and so on. It is now commonplace to see jobs in the cannabis industry advertised on main =stream sites.  

A spokesman for the Association of Cannabis Professionals, Dallin Young, explained that there are now 40 licensed marijuana growing and production facilities, plus 22 retail permits that have already been granted. When all of these are open, the Association estimates that as many as 2000 jobs will be available. 

Notably, San Diego has already taken more than $6 million in taxes since the legislation was passed, and the cannabis industry in the region is expected – and realistically so – to become one of the most powerful of all, as more people legitimately move into growing and production, ad recognize the potential of a retail store selling marijuana with the correct legal licence.


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