Southern California

Some San Diego County cities are relaxing marijuana bans, while one city cracks down

At least three north San Diego County cities are considering new ordinances to regulate or ban marijuana sales before state legislation takes effect in January that would allow widespread cultivation and sales.

Carlsbad is the latest to jump on board, with the City Council considering a proposed ban on commercial marijuana sales including storefront dispensaries. The council sent the draft ordinance back to staff last week, saying they want to make sure it will allow professional research on the substance by Carlsbad biotech companies, and allow medical marijuana deliveries to cancer patients.

Two recent state laws take aim at marijuana, including Proposition 64 passed by voters in November to allow recreational use. The state intends to begin issuing licenses to marijuana businesses Jan. 1, unless local jurisdictions prevent them.

In San Diego County, only San Diego, La Mesa and Lemon Grove have approved ordinances allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, and only San Diego has allowed recreational pot sales.

Oceanside now bans dispensaries, but it’s stance on the drug could be softening.

The City Council approved an ordinance last year that allows medical marijuana delivery to homes. And earlier this month, the council created a committee to study how sales might be regulated in the city. The committee — which includes council members Jerry Kern and Chuck Lowery, along with Treasurer Rafe Edward Trickey Jr. — is expected to report back to the full council in six months.

Legalizing marijuana has strong support among many Oceanside residents. Several farmers in the Morro Hills area on the city’s northeastern border have said the crop could replace agricultural products such as avocados, tomatoes and strawberries that are being pushed out of the area by high labor and water costs.

“I’m a farmer, so I want to grow the best cash crop I can,” said George Simons, who has a palm tree nursery in Morro Hills, at a recent Oceanside City Council meeting. “I’m not familiar with the stuff (marijuana), but I understand it pays pretty good, plus it doesn’t use much water.”


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Another farmer, Mike Mellano Jr., also asked the Oceanside council recently to legalize commercial marijuana cultivation. His family has one of the largest farms in Oceanside and operates the popular Flower Fields in Carlsbad.

Meanwhile, Vista is preparing an ordinance that would allow a maximum of two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate under limited conditions within the city limits. The ordinance is a reversal of the Vista City Council’s earlier opposition to the sales, but the council says its hand has been forced by support for a petition being circulated by residents to place the issue on the ballot.

Escondido and Poway both approved medical marijuana bans early last year, and San Marcos took the step in 2015.

Because Proposition 64, approved by 57 percent of California voters in November, allows the adult recreational use of marijuana some cities are updating their rules or passing new ones.

Carlsbad’s proposed ordinance will “preserve the status quo,” said Deputy City Attorney Heather Stroud. “Marijuana is not allowed.”

As written, it prohibits “all commercial … cultivation, manufacture, distribution, processing, storing, laboratory testing, labeling, transportation, distribution, (and) delivery of marijuana.” It prohibits outdoor cultivation, but allows indoor cultivation at a private residence screened public view.

Council members said the city’s biotech industry should be able to do laboratory testing of marijuana products, and that patients with legitimate needs should be able to obtain marijuana when it’s prescribed for them.

The council unanimously agreed to continue the issue to another meeting later this year so attorneys can amend the proposed ordinance to address those issues.

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