The Vista City Council approved new uses for marijuana in the city, which includes testing, manufacturing and distribution facilities along with delivery. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Vista approves new marijuana uses

VISTA — In just 13 months, Vista has become an anchor in the marijuana business in North County.

While voters passed Measure Z in 2018 to allow medicinal marijuana, the City Council unanimously approved several new uses during its Dec. 10 meeting. The new uses include allowing for cannabis testing and two each for manufacturing and distribution facilities within the Vista Business Park Specific Plan, along with allowing delivery within city limits.

John Conley, director of community development, reported on several amendments to the city’s code including delivery. He said those require a delivery service license, operating requirements, drive work permits and inspections of premises and records of those dispensaries.

“I’d rather have someone who is licensed, who is collecting sales tax on those transactions, I’d rather have you deliver legally to Vista residents,” Councilman John Franklin said.

Following direction from the City Council in August, Vista city staff prepared ordinances to permit cannabis delivery and allow cannabis testing, manufacturing and distribution use within the Vista Business Park.

The council approved the requirement of special use permits for manufacturing and distribution businesses. The council also discussed a minor use permit for testing facilities, but ultimately did not require such a permit.

Currently, the city has four medicinal dispensaries open, with several others slated to open this month. In total, Measure Z allows for 11 total dispensaries in the city.

Conley said the city also requested to continue an urgency ordinance to extend the moratorium on cannabis-related land uses until the amendments take effect. The previous moratorium expired on Dec. 10.

Any cannabis manufacturing and distribution business must be at least 600 feet from residential homes.

“It certainly makes sense for testing facilities to be available to make sure consumers have safe access to products,” Franklin said. “When we consider a nuisance to the community, since these are not retail uses, we can eliminate some of those issues.”

Several residents spoke against the city’s proposed actions driving points of public health and safety, with one resident describing the harmful effects of vaping. Many of those in opposition, including several from the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, which advocates against alcohol, tobacco and drug use, said the new uses in the city would be harmful to teens, among others.

“Marijuana profiteers… entice electeds to cooperate with the marijuana industry’s campaign to normalize marijuana,” said Kathryn Lippet, a public health practitioner and Vista resident. “Medicinal marijuana businesses also leave the door open for 18-year-olds to buy, use and divert to other peers and teens.”

John Jesse, who owns Dr. GreenRX dispensary in Vista, said the voters approved Measure Z by almost 54%, while Vista residents approved Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, by 57%.

He said it’s a safer alternative than opioids, noting 130 people die per day from opiates. As for the children, he said much of their use comes from the household, something he, and the three other businesses operating, cannot enforce.

He also touched on the tax revenue, which is estimated at about $1 million (although the actuals may be less) to the city’s General Fund, but by allowing adult-use under Proposition 64, the city could double or triple its tax revenue from marijuana.

“People don’t understand what’s going on,” Jesse said. “The sky hasn’t fallen, and it hasn’t fallen in San Diego.”

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