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Oceanside Planning Commission Doubles Down On Proposed Medicinal Marijuana Ordinance

A close-up of a marijuana leaf is seen in this undated photo.
Matthew Bowler
A close-up of a marijuana leaf is seen in this undated photo.
Oceanside Planning Commission Doubles Down On Proposed Medicinal Marijuana Ordinance
Oceanside Planning Commission Doubles Down On Proposed Medicinal Marijuana Ordinance GUEST:Alison St John, North County reporter, KPBS News

>>> Oceanside may soon join the list of San Diego cities that allow legal marijuana sales. The Oceanside city Council will consider licensing dispensaries for medical marijuana. This week the city's planning commission proposed eight medical marijuana dispensaries for Oceanside along with an ordinance for allowing for the testing and cultivation of cannabis. Joining me is KPBS North County reporter Allison St. John. The proposal for eight medical marijuana dispensaries comes as a surprise doesn't it? >> Yes it does, Maureen. Because the committee that Oceanside set up last year has been meeting all year and talking with residents about what they would like to see you. They came up with a proposed ordinance that would have had a maximum of four dispensaries in the city of Oceanside and limited to east of the freeway. Now the planning commission has come up with not only a recommendation that the city Council approved this ordinance, but also a suggestion that it would be better to go for maximum of eight dispensaries. >>> What is the rationale for the increased number? >> The member of the planning commission I spoke with said he felt there were a lot of restrictions on where dispensaries should be placed a ready. And if you only had four, it would not be very competitive. And from the perspective of customers, it would be better if there were more dispensaries to create a more competitive environment for the product and Oceanside. >>> What are the details of the planning commission's recommendations for marijuana cultivation? >> They are also suggesting that the amount of land that farmers and Oceanside could devote to cannabis cultivation be doubled from 10% of their land to 20% of their land. This is because there were various farmers who came to the meeting and testified that this is a very important issue for them. Some of them are on the brink of not being able to keep their land viable in agriculture because of the price of water. There is a risk of agricultural land in the moral Hills area becoming developed and turned into houses. If the city Council would approve cultivation of cannabis, that could save at least some small farmers who are on the brink of not being able to continue. The planning commission listen to them, and listen to the Farm Bureau and the Farm Bureau supports legalizing cultivation of cannabis, and so they increased the recommendation to 20% of the land being allowed for marijuana. >>> Did the commission consider allowing recreational marijuana outlets ? >> they do not consider that. At this point it does not seem likely there would be enough votes of Oceanside city Council to approve that. Medicinal marijuana was just barely of -- nearly approved. You have to remember that none of the cities in North County or most of San Diego County have lived that a bran on either recreational or medicinal marijuana. This is pushing the envelope for Oceanside a very conservative city to say yes to either medicinal marijuana. They do probably have the votes. That is not sure to pass on medicinal marijuana ordinance. The planning commission recognized that it was too early to be expecting the city Council to jump for recreational marijuana as well. >>> Is Oceanside's history on this issue to not consider it at all? >> Exactly. All of the cities in North County have considered whether to regulate marijuana now that it is legal. All of them have decided to ban it completely instead of Oceanside. Oceanside allowed sub distribution from legal dispensaries. Of course there are note legal dispensaries in North County. Other Miller -- delivery driver will have to drive up from somewhere in San Diego in order to legally deliver it to Oceanside. This is really opening the door to actually regulating marijuana which has been legalized for consumption and growth of six plants in your own home that has not yet been legalized for commercial activity in any of the other cities in North County and most of the cities and the rest of San Diego County. >>> The decision to keep these dispensaries for medical marijuana users, cuts the city of Oceanside for potential tax revenue from the sales of recreational marijuana use, is that right? >> Exactly. This is the dilemma for people of city Council of any city in San Diego County. If they opt for recreational marijuana, that opens the door for major income. Major revenue streams. The city of San Diego has already realized more than $300,000 and will likely realize millions in the coming years as a result of his decision to allow and regulate recreational marijuana dispensaries. No other cities in North County have open that door yet. It is very tempting because a revenue potential there is huge. All North County cities like most cities are suffering from budget constraints at the moment due to pension that and other issues. Opening the door to medicinal marijuana is interesting because it does open the door to marijuana but not to the revenues that recreational marijuana could bring. You cannot tax medicinal marijuana in the same way as you can tax recreational marijuana. >>> When will the Oceanside sit city Council vote on this? >> This is coming before the full city Council on the 28th of this month. It remains to be seen whether there are enough votes to pass this ordinance. Those who are on the committee are hopeful that it will. There is a new mayor and town who was just appointed. You may remember former Mayor James Wood suffered a series of strokes and eventually resigned. He was replaced in January by Peter Weiss. Peter Weiss has not yet shown his hand as to whether or not he's in favor of this ordinance. >>> I have been speaking with Allison St. John, Allison, thank you. >> Thank you, Maureen.

Oceanside Planning Commission Doubles Down On Proposed Medicinal Marijuana Ordinance
Oceanside’s Planning Commission recommends the city council approve a proposed medicinal marijuana ordinance. If passed, it would become the fifth city in San Diego County to allow licensed medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

Oceanside’s Planning Commission voted unanimously this week to recommend the city council approve a proposed ordinance to allow cultivation, testing and sale of medicinal marijuana.

However, the commission voted to double the number of dispensaries recommended by Oceanside’s medicinal marijuana ad hoc committee, and double the amount of land farmers could devote to the crop.

Oceanside’s ad hoc committee has been meeting for a year and hearing testimony from residents. The committee hammered out an ordinance that would allow up to four dispensaries — one for every 40,000 residents.

City staff recommended starting with two dispensaries before expanding. The Public Safety Commission is not recommending the city council approve it.

But Kyle Krahel of Oceanside’s Planning Commission said four would not provide enough competition in the city, and the commission voted unanimously to recommend increasing the number of dispensaries allowed to eight.

“There’s already a lot of common sense restrictions on where these dispensaries are going to be allowed,” Krahel said. “And I think that common sense regulation negates the need to have an overly restrictive limit.”

After hearing testimony from local farmers, the Planning Commission also recommended doubling the amount of land farmers can devote to cannabis cultivation from 10 percent to 20 percent. The San Diego Farm Bureau supports the ordinance, and Oceanside farmers say cannabis cultivation could save agriculture from becoming untenable in the Morro Hills area of the city.

Other North County cities have banned commercial marijuana operations. Currently, Oceanside allows deliveries from licensed dispensaries elsewhere.

Krahel said he believes North County cities will follow the lead of San Diego, which has already opened the door to licensed dispensaries

“Oceanside is just the leading edge of a tide that’s going to wash over all of North County eventually when it comes to medical marijuana,” Krahel said. “It’s just a matter of time. And with the advent of recreational in San Diego, and the potential tax revenue boon helping their budget, and budget constrains throughout North County, we’ll see recreational as the next opportunity as well.”

Tax revenues are not as significant for medicinal marijuana, but the Oceanside ordinance is restricted to medicinal marijuana because there is not enough support on the city council to approve commercial licensing of recreational cannabis.

Council vote March 28

The full Oceanside City Council will vote March 28 on the proposed medicinal marijuana ordinance.

The outcome could have a tangential impact on a San Diego County Supervisors race. Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, a Republican, is co-chair of the ad hoc committee and has taken a stand in support of Oceanside’s ordinance. He said he did not vote to legalize marijuana under Proposition 64 in 2016, but 57 percent of Oceanside residents did. He said his job is to support the will of the people.

Kern said he does not support doubling the number of dispensaries recommended by the ad hoc committee.

Kern’s support of Oceanside’s medicinal marijuana ordinance is one of the few issues that distinguish him from San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond. San Marcos has banned all commercial marijuana activity.

The outcome of the vote on Oceanside’s ordinance is likely to depend on the newly appointed mayor, Peter Weiss, who replaced former Jim Wood in January.

Dallin Young of the Association of Cannabis Professionals said, if passed, Oceanside would become the fifth city in San Diego County to lift the ban on licensed dispensaries for medicinal marijuana, after San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa and Lemon Grove. He said La Mesa might license a dispensary this month.

The city of San Diego and Chula Vista have voted to permit a limited number of recreational marijuana dispensaries.