Central California

Oceanside continues crafting medical marijuana ordinance

Cannabis consumers, consultants and dispensary representatives offered their ideas this week on how Oceanside can create a medical marijuana ordinance unique to its needs.

“The real issue is going to be on the dispensary side,” said Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern. He’s one of four members of the city’s medical marijuana ad hoc committee, which is ironing out details of the proposed legalization.

Oceanside allows medical marijuana deliveries but has no legal dispensaries in the city.

Dispensaries carry a stigma, and most people don’t want them near their homes, parks, churches or schools. Some fear dispensaries attract crime or simply a bad element of society. However, people who oppose the shops might agree to allow marijuana cultivation, testing or delivery.

“This is probably the most intense part of the process,” Kern said Wednesday. “It’s a workable deal, but there still are concerns.”

Like many California cities, Oceanside is working to pass local legislation that will supersede the new state marijuana laws that take effect in January. Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista and Solana Beach have approved or proposed ordinances to keep cannabis illegal. So far in the county only San Diego has a plan for legalization, and La Mesa has indicated it may favor cultivation.

However, a San Diego-based group called the Association of Cannabis Professionals is working for widespread legalization with an effort to place marijuana initiatives on ballots in cities across the county.

The group needs the signatures of at least 15 percent of a city’s registered voters to require a special election, or 10 percent of registered voters to get on the ballot of the next regular election, which will be Nov. 6, 2018.

Oceanside is trying to stay ahead of both the new state law and the Cannabis Professionals by crafting its own ordinance for some form of legalization. Leading that effort is the ad hoc committee of Kern, acting Mayor Chuck Lowery, patient advocate Gloria Ryan and physician Wendy Wiehl.

Oceanside’s City Council has been divided on the issue so far, with Kern and Lowery favoring legalization, and Jack Feller and Esther Sanchez opposed. Mayor Jim Wood, who’s been out on a long-term medical leave, also has opposed legalization. The council approved deliveries last year on a 3-2 vote with Feller and Wood opposed.

Several prominent members of Oceanside’s farming community have spoken strongly in favor of marijuana cultivation. They say it could replace crops such as strawberries and avocados that are being driven away by the high costs of land, water and labor. The county Farm Bureau also strongly supports legalized cultivation.

The city’s ad hoc committee has courted public participation with about a dozen community meetings so far, and Tuesday’s session had about 100 participants, nearly all favoring legalization. Kern said he hopes that by cultivating popular support and tailoring the ordinance to local needs, the committee can win a third council member’s vote.

“If we come up with a good ordinance, we can probably get support,” Kern said.

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Cannabis consultant Robbin Lynn suggested at the committee’s meeting Tuesday that Oceanside could use a dispensary model with two separate locations. Patients seeking a prescription for marijuana would go to one public location for consultations and to make the purchase. A second, private building would be used for bulk storage and delivery.

Legal dispensaries are far more safe than illegal ones, Lynn said, and thousands of them operate across the country with few problems and little media attention.

“It’s time to take local control and regulate,” Lynn said. “It’s happening in cities across California.”

Other speakers Tuesday included Michelle Giberti, a co-owner of the Oceanside 420 Alternative Medicine Evaluation Center, and Michelle McKechnie, who operates Oceanside only licensed medical marijuana delivery service.

Giberti said her business, which specializes in medical marijuana evaluations, has served more than 11,000 patients.

McKechnie said she delivers medical marijuana from 420 Central, one of 14 licensed dispensaries in Santa Ana. The product is delivered in an opaque container without advertising, and with a printed receipt stapled to the bag.

Legalization sets strict guidelines and will gradually eliminate bad operators, she said.

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