Oceanside gives final OK to medical marijuana; to revisit dispensaries

Oceanside’s City Council gave a final okay Wednesday to medical marijuana cultivation, manufacture and distribution and set a date in July to review the exclusion of dispensaries and some other points of the freshly adopted ordinance.

A last-minute compromise deleted dispensaries from the ordinance to get its initial approval March 28, on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Jack Feller opposed.

Council members Jerry Kern and Chuck Lowery, who served on the ad hoc committee that prepared the ordinance, both supported the compromise to get the ordinance passed. But both have said dispensaries are an essential link in the supply chain for medical marijuana patients, and want to refine the new ordinance.

Farmers in Oceanside’s northeastern Morro Hills area, who look at cannabis as a vital new cash crop, also are unhappy about limits on greenhouses and a provision in the ordinance that requires a 1,000-foot setback between marijuana cultivation facilities.

“We could only get in one, possibly two, 22,000-square-foot (greenhouse) facilities on 40 acres,” Morro Hills farmer Alan Fritz to the council Wednesday.

The 1,000-foot setback rule could create problems for greenhouses placed near property boundaries, or for other crops such as flowers grown near the facilities, farmers said.

Council members voted 3-2, with Lowery and Feller opposed, on Wednesday for the final approval of the ordinance, and then 3-2, with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Feller opposed, to schedule the workshop for 1 p.m. July 20 to review it.

The addition of dispensaries, reduced setbacks and other changes could be made as amendments to the ordinance, City Attorney John Mullen said.

The ordinance, as is, becomes effective in 30 days. No licenses or permits will be issued until the city has established a fee structure to cover the costs, which is expected to take four to six months.

Several of the same public speakers who have addressed the council at previous meetings, some in support and some opposed, spoke again Wednesday night. Few were happy with the ordinance as written, though many saw it as progress in the right direction.

“We oppose the ordinance in its current form,” said Dallin Young, executive director of the San Diego-based Association of Cannabis Professionals. The association is one of several groups that has begun steps to place cannabis legalization measures on the ballot in some cities.

“You have forced patients to turn to the black market” by eliminating dispensaries, Young said. The association maintains that legal access to medical and recreational marijuana helps to shut down the black market.

Last month, the Oceanside council agreed to remove dispensaries from the ordinance and to reconsider after the Police Department has had time to investigate possible links between dispensaries and crime in the neighborhoods around them. Police Chief Frank McCoy said that could take up to a year.

“I can’t see waiting a year,” Kern said Wednesday, asking to have the Police Department’s report in June. Much of the work has already been done, he said, and the information should be readily available.

The ad hoc committee included the 1,000-foot setback based on the city’s requirements for other activities, such as liquor stores, Kern said. However, such activities are not necessarily similar to marijuana cultivation.

“That’s our fault,” he said, referring to the ad hoc committee. “We are kind of flying by the seat of our pants here.”

Still, he bristled at some speakers’ criticism of the committee’s work.

“We looked at both sides, all the facts,” Kern said. “We worked really hard to get where we are today.”

Most other North County cities have passed local ordinances that supersede the state’s new marijuana laws, and prohibit the commercial cultivation and sale of medical and recreational marijuana.

The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 in September to legalize cultivation, testing, the manufacture of products such as edibles, and retail sales in storefront dispensaries for recreational and medical marijuana.

The only other cities in San Diego County that allow dispensaries are La Mesa and Lemon Grove.

The county has licensed several dispensaries in unincorporated areas, including at least one that is also a commercial grower near Gillespie Field outside El Cajon.

philip.diehl@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @phildiehl

Copyright © 2018, Pacific San Diego
68°