OCEANSIDE — A business request to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Oceanside brought heated testimony from both sides of the issue and ended in a unanimous vote for a 45-day moratorium to further investigate the issue. The interested business party did not address council, but city attorney John Mullen said there is an individual who has expressed an interest in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Oceanside.
“The city has not adopted rules and regulations,” Juliana von Hacht, Oceanside associate planner, said. “There is an inability to regulate.”
Von Hacht said the city is unable to protect the public from secondary crimes associated with a medical marijuana dispensary, such as street dealers selling to patients and public smoking of marijuana.
Conversely, the present lack of regulations is exactly why many supporters of a medical marijuana dispensary say an OK is needed to prompt necessary regulations and give patients safe access.
“Just like alcohol and cigarettes, it’s easier for kids to get marijuana if it isn’t regulated,” Dion Markgraaff, of safeaccessnow.com, said.
“It’s your obligation to pass and regulate (a medical marijuana dispensary),” Markgraaff said. “It’s the moral and legal things you should do to help your people.”
Markgraaff said patients suffering with cancer, arthritis and other chronic pain need access to a medical marijuana dispensary.
Other supporters of a dispensary said marijuana, unlike other prescription drugs, does not have a lethal effect, and a dispensary will generate sales tax dollars.
Paul Smeltzer, Ret. Sgt. U.S. Army, said he has been on serious medications for 15 years due to combat injuries. Medical marijuana is one of the drugs he has been prescribed. Currently the nearest dispensary is in Point Loma, which makes it inconvenient to obtain the prescribed medication. “It’s very important to a lot of our lives,” Smeltzer said.
Eugene Davidovich, Ret. U.S. Navy, was also prescribed medical marijuana. Davidovich said it’s very difficult for patients to access marijuana, which still carries a heavy stigma from misuse as a street drug.
Davidovich said he was falsely handcuffed and arrested in front of his wife and children in a Navy housing drug sweep in August 2008. “I am not a dangerous drug dealer,” Davidovich said. “I did not process any illegal drugs and was operating the collective under what I truly believe was the guidance of California state law.”
“A lack of regulation has resulted in an environment of fear where collectives are raided, patients are prosecuted and safe access to medication without fear does not exist,” Davidovich said.
Parties opposing a medical marijuana dispensary said there is a pattern of operational misconduct at dispensaries.
Lori Green of Yucca Valley said the dispensary in Yucca Valley is causing an increase in secondary crimes. Green warned that since Yucca Valley decided to close the medical marijuana dispensary, the request sits as number 458 on a state list to process a business closure.
Other opposition, including speakers from North County Prevention Coalition and San Diego Prevention Coalition, said the marijuana dispensed might be too strong compared to pill forms that are available. Speakers also said selling even medical marijuana sends the wrong message to youth.
Councilman Rocky Chavez said the moratorium will allow council to consider the medical issues and community safety concerns before deciding on land zoning to allow or nix a medical marijuana dispensary.
“I can’t wrap my arms around legalizing marijuana unless you get it at a pharmacy,” Councilman Jack Feller said. “I support the moratorium, but I’m not excited about seeing any dispensaries. How can we tell our youngsters medical marijuana is OK but the other kind isn’t?”