OCEANSIDE — The City Council unanimously voted to extend restrictions that do not allow medical marijuana businesses to recreational marijuana on Tuesday.
Private use of recreational marijuana, or cannabis, is legal for adults 21 and older in California, and was supported by 57 percent of Oceanside voters in November.
However the city is not ready to allow recreational cannabis dispensaries, smoking rooms or commercial cultivation.
The majority of council members said they are open minded to future allowances, and want to wait until state regulations on cannabis businesses are finalized in 2018. They also acknowledged that the majority of Oceanside residents’ voted in favor of state recreational use.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Jack Feller spoke against marijuana businesses. Both said they are concerned about the health and safety of children and neighborhoods.
“It’s a hard thing for me to tell your children or my children this OK, I’m not in favor of marijuana in any shape,” Feller said.
The discussion on cannabis business allowance drew over 30 speakers to the podium.
Comments ranged from a mother wanting to protect her 20-year-old children from recreational marijuana, to a father pleading for easier access to medical marijuana to help his four-year-old daughter with epilepsy.
Some speakers shared statistics of higher use, and related accidents after legalization.
Others countered that legalization has reduced associated stigma, and more people are simply acknowledging use.
Oceanside resident Amber Newman said legalizing recreational use has not changed peoples’ personal habits.
“It seems like people who were using marijuana are using it, and people who were not using marijuana are not using it,” Newman said.
All speakers agreed education is important, children should not use recreational marijuana, and the city should take its time in determining best practices.
A number of local farmers spoke in support of allowing commercial cultivation of cannabis. They said the crop takes less water, and is more profitable than current crops, which are putting farms out of business.
Flower grower Mike Mellano was among the farmers who favored allowing commercial cultivation.
“My family is looking for other crops, it’s a potential crop for us to farm,” Mellano said.
There was also discussion on tax revenue the city would see from marijuana businesses. Other cities collect a 5 to 15 percent local tax on marijuana sales.
At least 36 California cities have a retail ordinance to allow medical marijuana sales, and 27 cities have approved commercial cultivation rules.
Assistant City Manager Deanna Lorson shared the data, and said Encinitas is considering allowing cultivation, and Vista is evaluating medical dispensaries.
Discussion also yielded the need for an ad hoc committee to look at medical marijuana dispensaries.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery said he is in adamant support of patient access to medical marijuana.
Oceanside allows medical marijuana delivery from licensed dispensaries outside the city.
Licensed dispensary owners explained person to person consultation dispensaries provide is a best practice.
Patients suffering from cancer, major surgeries and other medical conditions shared how medical marijuana has helped them, and the difficulties they face driving elsewhere to obtain it.
Many medical marijuana supporters said it is time to rethink old perceptions of the helpful medical drug.
Several parents objected to statements that any allowance of sales would be detrimental to children and influence them to use recreational marijuana.
“Stop using children as an excuse for things you’re uncomfortable with,” Oceanside resident Fabi Ramsey said.
Speakers stressed the city can shape its laws for medical marijuana sales.
The City Council will vote to finalize not allowing recreational marijuana businesses, and discuss forming an ad hoc committee on medical marijuana dispensaries at future meetings.