CA: Oceanside council removes ‘medical-only’ cannabis restrictions

The city is officially removing its medical-only restriction on cannabis businesses, thus opening access to the recreational market.

At its June 2 meeting, the Oceanside City Council in a 4-1 vote approved an ordinance that amended the City Zoning Ordinance, City Code and Local Coastal Program to remove the “medical-only” restriction on cannabis businesses currently allowed in town.

According to City Planner Stefanie Cervantes, this will allow staff to approve transfers of existing local licenses to allow adult-use access. Existing facilities will need to submit a substantial conformity application to the Planning Commission for review to modify their regulated use permits.

The text amendment neither changes what types of nor how many cannabis facilities are allowed in the city. It also doesn’t change the city’s current ban on storefront dispensaries. For now, only non-storefront delivery businesses are allowed in the retail sector.

Back in March during an update on the city’s cannabis business program, Council voted to directed staff to bring forward the text amendment for consideration that would remove the medical-only restriction. The same four council members that approved that staff direction also approved the June 2 text amendment.

Mayor Esther Sanchez was the only member opposed to both the March direction to staff and this month’s text amendment on cannabis facilities.

In March, she said the city had not reviewed the city’s cannabis businesses because they weren’t completely operating yet, and noted that the tax rates for such businesses were incredibly low.

At the most recent council meeting, Sanchez said she could not support the text amendments allowing cannabis businesses access to the recreational market because of the lack of “educational, counseling or equity programming” for children and communities who have been traditionally criminalized due to past cannabis prohibition.

“Unless we have these programs I can’t support it,” Sanchez said. “It’s not thoughtful, and this is obviously going to be a big impact for our youth.”

According to Councilmembers Christopher Rodriguez and Kori Jensen, the city needs to have funding for such programming as well as sting operations targeting black market cannabis.

“We’ve made it very clear we’re talking about something we want to do but we don’t have the funding for,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not how the world works.”

By opening its current cannabis facilities access to the recreational market, Rodriguez explained, the city will be able to collect more taxes from those businesses to fund the previously mentioned programs.

“We can’t enact prevention without the funds from this industry,” Jensen said.

Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim said he doesn’t believe Council’s decision to open the recreational market to existing cannabis businesses is a “critical decision in local regulation.” From here on out, he said, the city needs to pay attention to how well its regulations for cannabis businesses are working.

“This will give us a chance to really analyze how we’re regulating marijuana,” Keim said.

Both Councilmembers Peter Weiss and Rodriguez emphasized that the black market is the main reason why children in Oceanside have access to cannabis.

“I don’t believe this is going to create any greater access,” Weiss said, later adding that he is currently more concerned about existing methadone clinics in the city over adult-use cannabis.


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