Fixing the Game- Posts From The San Diego Underground

Fixing the Game- Posts From The San Diego Underground

As more and more places adopt regulations permitting the use of medical and recreational cannabis there are many  who have embraced the movement. Unfortunately, there are also numerous locations that have affected industry progress through overregulation, de facto bans, and otherwise unruly tactics that further hinder cannabis industry development. Many examples exist throughout the country and until there is full acceptance of cannabis and it’s benefits, it’ll be an on-going battle to ensure safe access to medical patients and recreational users alike.

In this piece, we present a written perspective from a local operator in the city of San Diego. This ocean kissed city has embraced both industry ups and downs since it implemented medical cannabis programs and in recent months the city has further implemented several regulations that have stirred intense debate among the local cannabis population.


Written by Bobby Capablanca

This is a letter from the ones you’ve been hearing about in recent cannabis documentaries and broadcast specials; the “little guys” that represent more than seventy-five percent of the current medical marijuana industry. We exist in a grey area of the law that has been created by what would seem to be actions based on greed.

One question has always been- Is what we’re doing ‘legal’?

That depends on who you ask, the truth is that I -and many others- have been providing medical cannabis to qualified California patients for nearly a decade.  I’ve personally paid close to $100K in sales taxes, I’ve donated goods and funds back to my community for the sake of making it a better one, and I’ve ensured that our facility operates in both an ethical and compliant manner, but to the law enforcement and many elites in this industry, I am still considered a criminal……… Why?

In February 2014, San Diego brought about strict regulations that have effectively banned storefront dispensaries from opening in areas of the city such as downtown, the Gas Lamp Quarter, Chula Vista, North Park and various other locations which are considered heavily populated. Zoning restrictions have limited brick and mortar collectives to the outskirts of town and further restrictions have severely reduced the number of collectives that are even allowed to open. Additionally, the city has issued regulations which would also require the acquisition of a half million dollar cannabis permit in order for collectives to operate. By doing so, they have made it virtually impossible for many entrepreneurs to compete in this budding industry. A few years ago, many collectives were considered courageous and honorable for opening up protest dispensaries and fighting for patients rights. But now many of the same cannabis activist organizations that cheered them on during DEA raids are now asking those same operators to fall in line and submit an application to work for someone else. They want only 30 cannabis outlets throughout San Diego when currently there are close to 800 (when you include delivery services.) Many of which are operating in an ethical manner, yet there are unfortunately those who are poised and ready to take over this new industry that do not want competition – they want the rich to get richer, and for the smaller groups to either move on or get arrested.

Unfortunately it’s already beginning, a few owners of these million dollar licensed shops are urging the San Diego city attorney to take action against smaller collectives and delivery services. They want owners of these facilities criminally charged and fined- when just a few years ago- many of these elite owners were operating multiple and (in some cases ‘underground’) shops of their own. It’s understandable that many who paid the half million dollars to obtain these permits want a return on their investment and then some, but is this really the proper way? To eliminate small business competition and create a monopoly on distribution by limiting patients to such a small number of operators.

It is my belief that San Diego is making a huge blunder by trying to limit properly regulated access to medical cannabis. Sadly the black market will never go away unless you allow opportunities for both big and small groups alike to exit the current underground status and compete on a commendable level. Many operators will never be Starbucks, but we can certainly achieve the equivalance of the local, niche coffee shop. And just like that quaint coffee shop located down the street from your apartment, we can let the marketplace decide whether it has what it takes to stay open and survive, or simply go belly up and fail.  Operators- big and small alike- should be allowed to create interesting cannabis themed storefronts with the intention of catering to a wide variety of cannsumers. Anyone who has been in this industry long enough, and spent countless hours assisting patients knows that the cannabis community is not monolithic, but heterogeneous. It is comprised of the young and old, the sick and healthy, the extroverts, and the introverts. Every patient is different – and they all deserve to have a different collective to safely call home.

Surely, I do not condone places who operate outside of a moralistic and ethical manner or those who continue to hinder the progress of safely operating collectives. However, envision the future where San Diego wakes up to the inevitable and begins to open up venues such as cannabis themed restaurants, nightclubs, cafe’s and coffee shops throughout the city, envision all of America’s finest places offering both locals and tourists alike; an alternative to getting intoxicated at the numerous bars and taverns available, where future Cannabis Clubs become safe and properly regulated destinations for stress free relaxation and endless conversation with no more paranoia or looking over ones shoulders. Will San Diego look down with contempt at all these groups simply because they cannot afford to work side-by-side with bigger operators? I personally envision a cannabis friendly world, where big and small businesses exist, compete, and cooperate together – and where patients have endless choices and options as to where to spend their precious time and hard earned currency.

Concerned citizens and patients living in San Diego, it’s now your turn to move and ultimately decide the future of this great city. Please do not sit back quietly and allow the powers that be to decide for you; because they will happily continue to play a fixed game. We must unite as a community in order to ensure a more cannabis friendly future.

Thank you for listening. More posts coming soon.


We’d like to thank the writer for taking the time to express their standpoint at an ever evolving industry that continuously hangs at the swing of a pendulum between legalization and re-criminalization. As the eventual change in legislation, standardization, and stigmatization of this reveared and important plant slowly swings toward positive encouragement and a properly regulated system, we ask that the cannabis community continue to come together for the sake of patients, users, advocates, and enthusiasts alike.

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