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Last summer, the city removed its medical requirement for cultivation facilities, which means companies such as Zenleaf can cultivate cannabis for recreational use. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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Oceanside City Council to decide on three cannabis facilities

OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Planning Commission approved a total of three conditional-use permits and two location waivers for two different cannabis facilities in the city in the past month.

With the commission’s approval, the permits and location waivers must now wait for approval from the Oceanside City Council.

During the commission’s Feb. 8 meeting, two conditional-use permits and one Waiver of Locational Criteria were approved for Zenleaf Cannabis Facility. Owned by Zenleaf LLC, the facility would operate a cannabis cultivation and nursery facility with four greenhouses totaling 87,230 square feet at 5712 North River Road.

Currently, the site operates as a wholesale plant nursery and is already developed with existing greenhouses, accessory structures, a barn and a residential dwelling.

If approved, the cultivation operations of the facility would be permitted to cultivate and harvest cannabis for transportation by a licensed distributor. The nursing facility operations would allow propagation of plants for onsite use and sale to third parties but would not allow for onsite sales or delivery to the public.

City code requires a 1,000-foot separation between cannabis facilities and residential zones, schools, playgrounds, parks, beaches, daycare centers, preschools and churches. Zenleaf applied for a Waiver of Locational Criteria because it barely misses the residential zone distance requirement by about 20 feet.

Though the closest residential zone boundary is located 980 feet away, Zenleaf felt that the distance plus various constructed and natural barriers also located between the cannabis facility and the residential zone were significant enough to grant a waiver. These barriers include North River Road, a cluster of trees, an agricultural parcel that is not connected to this project, and a stream.

Zenleaf would also be subject to operational restrictions and safety requirements, including a 24-hour security surveillance system, limited access, alarm systems, lighting, signage restrictions and commercial grade locks.

Last summer, the city removed its medical requirement for cultivation facilities, which means Zenleaf could cultivate cannabis for adult use, also known as recreational.

Unlike Zenleaf however, applicant Left Coast LLC is still bound to the medical restriction for its already approved manufacturing facility as well as the distribution facility that it more recently applied for.

In October 2020, City Council approved a conditional-use permit and Waiver of Locational Criteria for Left Coast’s medical cannabis manufacturing facility at 1629 Ord Way.

The facility makes medical-use only vaporizer cartridges, isolate, tinctures, topicals, packaged flower and concentrates.

The Planning Commission approved another permit and location waiver at its Feb. 22 meeting for Left Coast’s medical cannabis distribution facility, which would operate at the same location as its manufacturing facility.

While cannabis manufacturers make the product, cannabis distributors are in charge of transporting the product. Distribution is also responsible for arranging for testing of products and performing quality assurance on tested products.

Left Coast also has 24-hour video surveillance and security, indoor and outdoor lighting, limited access security, secured storage and signage restrictions. It also uses the Air Filter 710 CFM, an odor control system that eliminates 99.5% of all odors using activated carbon.

The facility is located within 150 feet from a residential zone to the south, 870 feet to the north and 450 feet to the northwest, as well as 350 feet from a church and 550 feet from a massage business. Still, due to its location in an industrial zone and a railroad track creating a barrier between the facility and the residential zone, the location waiver was already granted both times by the Planning Commission and once by Council in terms of the manufacturing facility.

Left Coast argued that because the waiver was already granted once, it made sense that should be granted again considering that the distribution facility would be where the approved manufacturing facility is.

Though former planning commissioner Colleen Balch supports the Left Coast project, she found it “ironic” that that city had set rules and regulations for medical cannabis but is already making exceptions for some of the earliest applicants.

“We just set the rules and regulations for medical distribution in the last two years and yet we’re already stretching the rules,” Balch said during the Feb. 22 meeting.

Commissioner Robyn Goodkind had a similar opinion. She noted that the distance requirement is like a “guideline” that can be waived given certain geography, topography, roadways, fencing and other barriers.

“I’m comfortable with the exception but cognizant that we should be adhering to those requirements when we can,” she said.

Commissioner Tom Morrissey noted that the requirements were not simply guidelines but part of city law, which makes locational waivers lawful as long as the applicant meets certain criteria.

“The law allows for waivers,” Morrissey said.

If approved by Council, Zenleaf’s cultivation facility would be subject to a 1.5% tax rate and its nursery facility would be subject to a 2% tax rate. Left Coast’s manufacturing facility is already subject to a 2.5% tax rate, and if approved its distribution facility would be subject to a 2% rate.