Oceanside agreed Wednesday to license two delivery-only dispensaries as the city continues to fine-tune a medical marijuana ordinance adopted in April.
The 3-2 vote, with council members Jack Feller and Esther Sanchez opposed, was a compromise reached after the failure of an earlier motion that would have allowed two walk-in, storefront dispensaries along with the two “Type 9” delivery operations.
“This is 1,000 light years ahead of what we’ve got right now,” said Councilman Chuck Lowery.
Oceanside now allows two licensed medical marijuana delivery services from outside the city for patients with prescriptions.
The ordinance approved earlier this year allows the cultivation, testing, manufacture and other aspects of the cannabis industry, but the council agreed at the time to hold off on dispensaries until the Police Department could collect more information about the public safety aspects of dispensaries. No licenses have been issued yet.
Police Chief Frank McCoy presented that report Wednesday, but concluded that legal dispensaries are a relatively new business in California and that there has been too little time to clearly evaluate all the effects on law enforcement.
The council-appointed ad hoc committee that drafted the ordinance, after a year of research and community meetings, had recommended the total of four dispensaries.
Councilman Jerry Kern, Lowery and many residents often cite the statistic that 57 percent of San Diego County voters supported Proposition 64 in 2016 to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.
“Our job as public officials is to carry out the will of the people,” Kern said Wednesday. “People voted for it, and we have to regulate it.”
Adding urgency to the city’s efforts is a citizens initiative announced last week. The group is collecting signatures to place a measure on the ballot in 2020 that, if approved, would supersede the city ordinance by legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana.
People might feel less of a need to support the citizens initiative if the city made more progress on its own marijuana measure, Kern said.
Initiative supporters David Newman and Dallin Young both said after Wednesday’s vote that the initiative effort would continue.
Speakers on both sides of the issue line up to address the council each time the issue surfaces, and Wednesday about 20 people went to the podium. Many talked about the need to give ailing seniors the safe and natural medicine they need, and their opponents pointed to the need to protect children and teens from a possible gateway to drugs.
“Public safety is extremely important to me,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said Wednesday. “We have yet to determine the extent of the impacts of cannabis establishments.”
More information is needed before the city approves any dispensaries, she said, and she’s especially concerned about the effects drugs and alcohol have on minorities.
In a separate decision, the council approved some other amendments to the medical marijuana ordinance, including a proposal by Weiss to cap the city’s cultivation licenses at a maximum of five.
The San Diego County Farm Bureau and many of the area’s commercial farmers support cannabis cultivation. They see it as a replacement for traditional crops such as tomatoes, flowers and avocados that are being forced out by cheap imports and the high costs of water and labor.