OCEANSIDE — A split City Council voted on Sept. 5 to allow two medical marijuana delivery businesses to establish hubs in parts of the city zoned for industrial uses.
The measure was approved 3-2 with Mayor Peter Weiss joining Councilmen Chuck Lowery and Jerry Kern in favor and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Jack Feller voting against.
The swing vote on a politically charged issue that riled advocates on both sides, Weiss said the measure amounts to a compromise between Lowery and Kern, who favored fewer retail restrictions, and Sanchez and Feller, who opposed any legal retail establishments. Lowery and Kern represented the council on an ad hoc committee that recommended the city allow up to four medical dispensaries, which could have included storefronts that welcome walk-in customers.
“I thought we should take a sensible, measured approach. I didn’t want to go too far. I mean, there are people who don’t want it at all and the pro-pot people who wanted everything,” the mayor said. “To me, taking baby steps and moving something forward just a little bit is better than nothing at all or going too far. … I didn’t want us to be the first one to experiment with everything.”
In allowing medical delivery dispensaries, Oceanside becomes the first city in North County to allow some form of legal commercial cannabis sales since voters in November 2016 — both locally and statewide — passed by wide margins a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The city will accept applications for the two available delivery dispensary permits through Oct. 1.
Retail marijuana storefronts, and dispensaries that market their products for recreational use, remain illegal within the Oceanside city limits.
“We have had storefront dispensaries before and they were nothing but trouble. … Those were illegal dispensaries, but they were still storefront dispensaries. I understand that the legal storefront dispensaries have different appearance and security and whatnot but, to me, I think it was still too early,” Weiss said after the meeting.
In April, the council voted to allow the commercial cultivation of marijuana within the city but outlawed both medical and recreational dispensaries. With this week’s vote, city policy is more in line with recommendations made by the ad hoc committee, Kern said.
“On the dispensaries, we didn’t get what we wanted but everything else we got put in place — the supply chain stuff, the cultivation, the distribution, the manufacturing -— that can happen. … But it’s hard: You need three votes to get anything done and we didn’t have the three votes. The deliveries [permits] is basically a compromise with the mayor,” Kern said before the vote.
No one spoke at the Wednesday meeting, but Sanchez and Feller have said the oppose legal marijuana sales in the city as an issue of public health and safety.
“Public safety is extremely important to me. … We have yet to determine the extent of the impacts of cannabis establishments,” Sanchez told the San Diego Union-Tribune this summer.
Meanwhile, a group organized as Oceanside Advocates for Safe Access is circulating petitions in support of a local ballot initiative that would allow recreational marijuana sales in storefront dispensaries; eliminate limits on the number of marijuana-relate businesses permits the city can issue; and reduce local licensing fees from as much as $11,500 to no more than $1,000. In addition, the proposed ballot measure would levy a $2-per-ounce excise on marijuana in addition to taxing five percent of gross sales.
Petition drive organizers will need to collect about 8,900 verified signatures — 10 percent of the city’s registered voters — to put the measure to voters in the March 2020 general election, City Clerk Zack Beck said.