Cannabis dispensary expansion proposal still in ‘very early’ stages, San Diego councilman says

La Jolla's Zones 1A and 4 — labeled on the map as LJPD-1A (top) and LJPD-4 (bottom)
La Jolla’s Zones 1A and 4 — labeled on the map as LJPD-1A (top) and LJPD-4 (bottom) — remain in a revised version of a proposal for where new cannabis dispensaries can open.
(City of San Diego)

La Jolla representative Joe LaCava says residents still have ‘plenty of time’ to weigh in on further reducing or expanding where dispensaries would be allowed in a new city plan.


A proposal that would allow more cannabis dispensaries throughout San Diego, including in La Jolla, is “very, very early in the process,” according to City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

LaCava’s office is taking residents’ feedback about the proposal, which was presented to the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee as an information item.

The proposal, which would allow dispensaries in some areas where they previously were prohibited, would nearly double the maximum number of dispensaries from 38 to 74 throughout the city. The plan was refined after complaints prompted San Diego officials to back away from allowing dispensaries in some parts of La Jolla and other neighborhoods.

Parts of Carmel Valley, Mission Beach and Old Town also are eliminated from the plan amid backlash.

July 18, 2023

Ombretta Di Dio, city community engagement program coordinator, told the La Jolla Light earlier this month that the original plan included La Jolla’s Zones 1-4, or nearly the entire Village.

The La Jolla areas now included, she said, are Zones 1A and 4 on the city’s zoning map — roughly the areas of Girard Avenue and Prospect Street and around Pearl Street between La Jolla Boulevard and Drury Lane.

Currently there are five dispensaries in LaCava’s district but none in La Jolla’s 92037 ZIP code.

LaCava said he is not yet involved in conversations or negotiations over locations, though he emphasized he does not want dispensaries in any zones that allow for residential use.

“I don’t see those as compatible uses,” he said.

No final decisions have been made on the proposal, LaCava said. “This is still a wide-open conversation. … There is a lot more work to be considered.”

The expansion is aimed at giving people adversely affected by the war on drugs a chance to break into the industry. There are several eligibility criteria, but the primary requirement is that a person must have been convicted of a cannabis crime, or have a family member who was convicted of one, after 1993. Dispensaries were legalized in 2014.

Because 35 of the city’s 38 existing dispensary permits have already been awarded, officials say a new cannabis equity program won’t work without expanding the number of dispensaries.

“When cannabis was legalized, dispensaries were pushed … to areas that were far away from what we were calling sensitive uses,” LaCava said, meaning primarily residential areas, churches, child-care locations and playgrounds.

The new cannabis equity program “embodies a number of measures to make it easier for [eligible] individuals to enter the cannabis market and to then benefit from this new business opportunity,” he said.

But the process requires “robust” conversations, he added.

The proposal likely won’t go to the full City Council until the end of the year, so “there is plenty of time for La Jollans to weigh in in terms of either further reductions or expanding,” LaCava said.

To reach LaCava, call (619) 236-6611 or email

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer David Garrick contributed to this report.