A new group seeking to legalize recreational marijuana sales in Oceanside has filed an initiative that, if approved by voters, would supersede a medical marijuana ordinance the city approved March 28.
Members of Oceanside Advocates for Safe Access held a news conference Tuesday afternoon outside City Hall to announce the initiative. They need to collect the signatures of at least 10,000 Oceanside registered voters to place the measure on the ballot in 2020.
“We are left with no other option than to fully support this initiative,” said Amber Newman, an Oceanside medical marijuana activist.
She and her husband, David Newman, are owners of a nonprofit cannabis nursery in Oceanside. They suspended their own medical marijuana initiative effort last year to help craft the city’s ordinance.
But the Newmans and other residents were disappointed by the adopted ordinance.
“It was a worthy jumping off point,” Amber Newman said of the city’s effort.
The ad hoc committee included Councilmen Jerry Kern and Chuck Lowery, and local representatives of cannabis professionals and patients. The committee worked for almost a year and led a series of eight community meetings to propose a detailed ordinance that outlined regulations for local control of cultivation, manufacturing, licensing, sales, and other aspects of medical marijuana businesses.
However, changes were made, including the elimination of dispensaries, to get the ordinance approved by a majority of the City Council.
The altered ordinance leaves the door open for black market sales and shuts the door on a huge revenue source for the city, Amber Newman said.
Among the backers of the new initiative is the San Diego-based Association of Cannabis Professionals.
Last year, the association filed notices of its intent to circulate petitions in Oceanside and several San Diego County cities, including Carlsbad and Vista. Those efforts were later suspended to avoid conflicts with other efforts underway at the time.
“This one is much different,” association Executive Director Dallin Young said of the current Oceanside ordinance. “We made a lot of fixes to the last one.”
Among the differences is that the revised initiative includes some of the work done by the Oceanside committee, Young said.
It’s probably too late to get the initiative on the ballot in November, he said, but 2020 is acceptable and, “We’re not going away.”
Oceanside Councilman Jack Feller voted for the city’s medical marijuana ordinance, but has always opposed recreational use.
“This is the biggest smoke-and-mirrors (game) I have ever seen,” Feller said Tuesday. “It came in as medical marijuana, and now it’s anything goes. It’s all about big marijuana.”
Lowery also was disappointed in the adopted ordinance. He said Tuesday that the initiative will give voters the final say.
“The City Council dropped the ball because of personal prejudices,” Lowery said. “We could have had regulations in place that would have protected the citizens.”
Instead, if the initiative passes, the city will get an amalgamation of cannabis regulations based on what many cities have done, he said.
Cannabis cultivation has strong support among Oceanside’s dwindling farming community, which has been struggling to deal with the increasing costs of water and labor, and decreasing costs of imported produce. Many farmers see marijuana as the cash crop they need.
Two cannabis initiatives will be on the November ballot in Vista.
One would allow medical marijuana sales and includes a 7 percent tax on sales. The other would allow both recreational and medical marijuana sales, and includes an annual fee based on the square footage of the business.
Marijuana is considered an illegal drug under federal law.
However, medical marijuana has been legal under state law in California for several years for patients with a valid prescription. Recreational marijuana became legal in the state Jan. 1.
Despite the state law, most North County cities have passed local ordinances to prohibit the commercial cultivation and sale of medical and recreational marijuana.
Law enforcement officials often shut down illicit cannabis sales operations across North County and arrest the people involved.