In the summer of 2021, a lobbyist representing a Riverside County cannabis dispensary met privately with Jesus Cardenas, then chief of staff to newly elected San Diego Councilmember Stephen Whitburn.
The lobbying report that Dallin Young of Blue Water Government Affairs filed with the city clerk later that year does not disclose the date he lobbied the council member’s top political aide.
But it does show the two men spoke about potential “updates to the city of San Diego’s commercial cannabis ordinances” and possible “changes to zoning and cannabis business tax rates.”
Cardenas at the same time was running a political consulting firm that collected tens of thousands of dollars from Blue Water and other cannabis interests, his economic disclosures confirm. He was the only public official Young reported lobbying during the three months ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Weeks later, Cardenas personally approved an agenda item for the city council’s land use and housing committee that called for relaxing San Diego’s cannabis policies, records show.
The changes would have aligned the city’s rules with state standards, making it easier to open dispensaries, increasing the number of pot shops allowed in each council district and extending their daily operating hours.
Whitburn was then chair of the land