OCEANSIDE — A cheer went up as the City Council voted 3-2 to create an ad hoc committee to gather information on the cultivation, distribution and sales of medical marijuana on April 19.
Public speakers were two to one in support of the ad hoc committee.
Farmers at the meeting were outspoken about being allowed the option to grow the state-legal crop.
“I’m a proponent of freedom of choice for farmers, we should have the right,” farmer George Simmons said. “The amount I would get on a foot of medical marijuana (cultivation) is a lot more than to produce avocados.”
Larry Balma, farmer and South Morro Hills Association president, said growing medical marijuana would be an undertaking for large farms due to the investment to house crops in greenhouses and have security.
He added a lot needs to be studied including how to secure money earned, which banks will not accept due to federal laws.
“We have no stance on sales and distribution, we want the right to cultivate,” Balma said. “Cultivation in the agriculture district would help larger farmers stay sustainable. As farmers we have to look at every opportunity we have.”
Councilman Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jerry Kern proposed the formation of a committee of seven, including themselves, City Treasurer Rafe Edward Trickey Jr., and four residents/stakeholders, to research business logistics and bring back options for City Council to consider in October.
The committee will not include anyone with a business interest in marijuana.
Several speakers offered to share their expertise as licensed dispensary owners, or wanted to ensure their interest as farmers was included.
Lowery said input and comments are welcome, but the purpose of the committee is fact-finding without prejudice.
He added that committee members will conduct interviews to gather information from business owners and farmers.
Lowery spearheaded the idea to form a committee.
He is a proponent of providing safe and reliable access to medical marijuana for Oceanside patients.
Lowery said he would like to see well-regulated sales of medical marijuana in Oceanside.
Mayor Jim Wood took a business interest in forming a committee.
Wood said he is not in support of recreational use, but wants to look at the feasibility of medical marijuana cultivation.
“I think growing medical marijuana would help our agriculture area a lot, and bring money to the city,” Wood said. “I’m leaning towards it, but need more information.”
Kern said he wants to be ahead of state regulations and maintain city control.
“If we shut this down now there will be an initiative on the ballot and we’ll lose all control,” Kern said. “This is our opportunity to maintain control and steer the process.”
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Jack Feller cast the two no votes. Both said they do not support marijuana sales of any kind.
“What’s being presented is commercialization, I’m very much opposed to that,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added it is too early to look into commercial sales and cultivation with the issuing of state licenses eight months away.
“I still believe this is premature, let’s wait until we see what the regulations are sometime next year,” Sanchez said.
Some speakers agreed the city should wait until more can be gleaned from efforts of other cities and states.
The City Council majority acknowledged 57 percent of Oceanside residents voted in favor of Proposition 64, which allows recreational marijuana use, and that the times they are a-changing.