The Coast News Group

Vista approves marijuana testing labs, deliveries

VISTA — Several new uses for medicinal cannabis were approved by the City Council during its Aug. 27 meeting. The council approved testing, distribution and manufacturing facilities along with allowing deliveries within city limits. Since Measure Z passed last year, the city was forced to approve medicinal dispensaries from the resident-backed initiative.

The council limited the number of dispensaries at 11, with many either already having or currently working on obtaining their state license. As for the council’s Aug. 27 action, though, all were in favor of testing labs, which are capped at two.

The uses for manufacturing and distribution businesses will be determined at a later date by the council, according to Andrea McCullough, Vista’s communications officer. There will only be two of each allowed in the city.

“I didn’t support the marijuana industry, but I do believe there are medicinal benefits,” Mayor Julie Ritter said. “I do worry about the kids and the kids are getting marijuana and there’s loopholes.”

At least 20 residents spoke against deliveries and other uses for medicinal marijuana. Many said marijuana-related businesses target kids, and marijuana is a gateway drug and can enhance mental illnesses, along with other negative impacts to communities.

Several representatives from the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, which is based in Vista, said marijuana use among teens is rising and at a 19-year high. They urged the council to ban deliveries and other uses in the city.

However, the council opted to allow deliveries as a way to collect sales tax from dispensaries outside Vista, along with providing Vista dispensaries a competitive advantage.

Still, not all on the council were in agreement with the additional uses passed. Ritter and Councilwoman Amanda Rigby voted against manufacturing and distribution uses.

Rigby said she does not like marijuana, although believes it does have medicinal properties. However, she also said she believes it is addictive and all hardcore drug users start with marijuana.

Due to the new approvals by the council, those marijuana-related businesses will be subjected to additional inspections by the city. The council was conflicted with some of the uses, but due to Proposition 64 and other state laws and a lack of federal enforcement, was left to take a cautious approach, Rigby said.

“Measure Z was put on the ballot and we have to follow Measure Z thoughtfully and carefully,” she added.

Jon Jessee, owner of Dr. GreenRX, one of the 11 approved dispensaries, said no one in the industry wants to target kids. He also said alcohol is a bigger issue, noting people who die from alcohol poisoning.

Jessee also railed against opponents for saying there are no testing labs in San Diego, noting there are at least three.

“I’m supportive of being in it and you guys knowing what’s going on,” Jessee told the council. “I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and no one wants kids in it. That’s just crazy.”