City approves medical marijuana businesses with steep contingencies

City approves medical marijuana businesses with steep contingencies
Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — City Council voted March 28 to move forward with allowing medical marijuana businesses in the city. Council approved recommendations for medical marijuana cultivation, nurseries, manufacturing, testing labs, distribution and storefront dispensaries, but with some steep contingencies.

City staff has 180 days to develop a regulation fee structure before medical marijuana businesses open.

Additionally, dispensaries will be on hold until police take the needed time to research other cities and recommend safety measures.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowrey, who chaired the city’s medical marijuana ad hoc committee that drafted the recommendations, was visibly upset with the imposed wait for businesses to be allowed to open and benefit patients.

“We’ve done a lot of work that hasn’t gone anywhere,” Lowrey said.

Following the meeting, Lowrey said the proposed 180-day wait period could drag on to be even longer. He said he sees the terms as a defeat.

“Everything forward thinking was thrown under the bus,” Lowery said.

Prior to the council vote, residents of Oceanside and other cities spoke for more than two hours voicing their support and concerns. Most speakers had empathy for patients in need of medical marijuana or were patients themselves.

Several speakers asked that the city slow down its approval process, heed police concerns of increased crime and conduct an impact study before moving forward.

Farmers requested more cultivation allowances including greater acreage coverage than the proposed 10 percent, and to drop the 1,000 feet restriction between medical marijuana farming operations.

“All I want to do is raise a legal crop that’s profitable, is there any farmer that doesn’t want to do that?” Oceanside farmer George Simons asked.

Speakers supported medical marijuana businesses 2 to 1.

“Oceanside is a council vote away from showing other cities how to do this,” one speaker said.

The final rules approved by council follow most city staff recommendations. Council changes included allowance of cultivation on 20 percent of farmland with the cap held at 22,000 square feet.

Dispensaries were cut to zero as a start. This was the news Lowrey said he found the most disappointing.

Staff’s recommendation was to allow four dispensaries based on the city’s current city population, and begin with two.

Some speakers at the meeting asked for more dispensaries. Others cautioned dispensaries would have a negative impact if allowed in the city’s low-income neighborhoods that already suffer from gang violence.

Councilman Jack Feller, who was the one vote against recommendations for medical marijuana businesses, said few people would welcome dispensaries in their neighborhood.

“I don’t think 90 percent of the 57 percent who voted (in Oceanside for recreational marijuana) would like a dispensary near them,” Feller said.

Licenses for dispensaries will not be issued until police research is completed and recommendations on public safety are made. Mayor Peter Weiss said it will likely take 12 to 18 months.

Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy said he would like to do an apples-to- apples comparison of safety issues of California medical marijuana dispensaries.

“The more time we have to do that, the better the recommendations,” McCoy said.

The city will hear a second reading of the ordinance in April. Laws will go into effect in May, and business operations will be on hold until September or later.

Oceanside will continue to allow delivery of medical marijuana to patients from licensed dispensaries outside the city.

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