Oceanside’s City Council voted 3-2 this week to allow two medical cannabis delivery services that, if approved, could be the first legal dispensaries in North County.
Oceanside approved an ordinance in April to allow the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and distribution of medical marijuana, but not dispensaries, and has been fine-tuning the measure ever since.
The delivery-only services added to the ordinance Wednesday are technically dispensaries, city officials said.
“It’s a brick-and-mortar storefront,” Community Development Director Jonathan Borrego told the council. “However, there would be no customer traffic within that facility. It would simply be used as a distribution point for medical cannabis deliveries.”
If the ordinance is approved after a second reading, probably in a few weeks, the city would begin accepting applications for the two available licenses on Oct. 1.
The decision attracted no public speakers and went quickly compared to the long, crowded cannabis discussions at meetings earlier this year.
“It’s time to move forward,” Councilman Chuck Lowery said Wednesday. He and Jerry Kern served as the council’s representatives on an ad hoc committee that worked with residents and staffers to write the city’s medical cannabis ordinance.
Council members Jack Feller and Esther Sanchez, who voted against the dispensaries, have consistently opposed legalization, saying it would be a bad influence on young people and could lead users to other drugs.
Emergency services will be burdened by legalization, Sanchez said Wednesday, and the police and fire departments should be better prepared for it.
Cannabis sales should be taxed to pay for the additional police officers and other services that will be needed, she said. However, any new tax would have to be approved by the city’s voters, and so far that hasn’t happened.
Other council members said those kinds of details can be worked out in the future.
Oceanside has allowed deliveries of medical marijuana from legal sources outside the city since 2016. Many of those come from a dispensary in Santa Ana.
Some of the biggest names in Oceanside’s farming community, and the San Diego County Farm Bureau, have backed cannabis cultivation. They see marijuana as a potential replacement for traditional crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and avocados that are being pushed out of the region by the high costs of water and labor.
Vista voters will have two initiatives on their November ballot that would allow medical marijuana retailers and testing laboratories.
One of those initiatives, proposed by the city, would permit up to three retailers to sell medical marijuana by delivery only, not in storefronts, and only in manufacturing and industrial zones.
The other Vista initiative, proposed by a citizens group and backed by the marijuana industry, would allow 10 storefront dispensaries or more, based on population, across a wider area of the city, including commercial districts.
Most other North County cities have passed ordinances that supersede state law and prohibit any commercial cultivation or sales of cannabis and cannabis products.
The city of San Diego has about 18 permitted cannabis dispensaries.
Illegal dispensaries, delivery services and related marijuana businesses frequently pop up across the county. Proponents of legalization say it will help control those activities.