San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole recently expressed reluctance to support the city's anticipated recreational marijuana industry.
"I have always recognized that allowing access to marijuana use for medical reasons was the humane and right thing to do," Cole said at a city council meeting in January. "I might not agree with allowing businesses to now sell marijuana for recreational use, however, I do recognize that citizens voted for it and it is now the law and I respect that. But I do not want us to wait until the state develops its regulations and licensing requirements and imposes them on us. This could result in recreational marijuana businesses opening all over the city, and in particular, in my district, which I do not support."
Last November, California voters approved recreational marijuana use and, in turn, agreed to allow each city's leaders to decide whether to permit recreational marijuana sales. San Diego became the first city in the state to approve sales -- which are expected to go into effect by January 2018.
Cole's statement, however, implied she believes residents in her district -- District 4 -- should be especially limited in their ability to participate in recreational marijuana use and entrepreneurship.
Okun THC, a medical marijuana delivery service business based in Downtown San Diego, advocates for both medical and recreational marijuana access throughout the city.
Tyler Forman, Okun THC's chief marketing officer, said the business takes both an economic and social stance on the issue.
He recommended " that [the council] starts thinking about their community and less about themselves. When the city council says they don’t want recreational sales in their districts, it’s no longer a matter of sympathy. They are showing us that they have no concept of empathy and that’s the root of the problem."
Okun THC was founded in 2016 and its membership base continues to grow with a member count of around four hundred Southern California patients. The delivery service also partners with San Diego Americans for Safe Access, an organization which advocates for legislation to support cannabis patients and research.
Despite a lingering stigma around marijuana use, Forman said Okun THC is confident in its ability to provide quality and scientifically-proven products to consumers -- a legitimate business practice which distinguishes it from illegal drug dealer sales practices, for instance.
"We just want to do what we can to provide safe access to better medicine, and that means not only breaking down the barriers in legislation, but more importantly, breaking down the barriers in as many minds as possible," Forman said. "We are absolutely comfortable with recreational sales of marijuana because we’ve researched and tested our products. We know what we’re delivering and we’re proud to provide the best service around."
San Diego's law enforcement leaders have also expressed concern about how recreational marijuana sales will impact community safety.
At the council meeting, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said, "In San Diego, we have already experienced some of the negative side effects that both the legal and illegal marijuana businesses have brought. Our officers have responded to hundreds of complaints...regarding crime and quality-of-life issues around these locations."
But Forman said Okun THC believes recreational marijuana sales should be legalized, regulated,and taxed. In turn, he proposed that the city's recreational marijuana industry could provide a supplemental opportunity for revenue generation, especially in light of the recent loss of the San Diego Chargers.
"It is a goal of ours to create more jobs. If we are able to lower the barriers of entry into this market,then the industry will continue to drive the unemployment rate down and thus contribute to the 'quality of life' concern found in these areas," he said.
Okun THC touts its dedication to ensuring community safety by guaranteeing discrete package deliveries -- which are accompanied by private security.
"As we operate within the bounds of our legal system, there needs to be a certain level of education maintained amongst law enforcement to eliminate unjust bias. It’s finally time for Americans to start opening up their eyes to the benefits that these products can bring," Forman said.