OCEANSIDE: City closes marijuana dispensary in continuing crackdown

July 25, 2011

Ray Huard, North County Times

Oceanside officials closed a South Coast Highway medical marijuana dispensary earlier this month in an ongoing crackdown on such businesses.

North County Collective at 913 S. Coast Highway is the latest dispensary to run afoul of a city zoning law that the city adopted in January 2010 to replace a two-year ban on the dispensaries that expired in May.

Collective owner John Scandalios is challenging the city in court, arguing that Oceanside is circumventing state law and the will of the voters.

"I run a very clean ship here," Scandalios said. "It's just not right."

Vista Superior Court Judge Earl Mass issued a temporary restraining order July 14 to close North County Collective for not having a business license, pending a hearing on the city's request for a permanent injunction to close the dispensary for good.

Scandalios said the city won't give him a business license because of the zoning law, which says that businesses that aren't specifically listed aren't permitted.

Marijuana dispensaries aren't on the list.

"There will simply be no more collectives in the city of Oceanside," Scandalios said. "Now my patients are going to need to go about 40 miles from here, they're going to have to go to downtown San Diego or Orange County."

In addition to North County Collective, city lawyers have gone to court to close Green Ocean Collective on El Camino Real, Abaca Medical Collective on South Coast Highway and CKS on Oceanside Boulevard, City Attorney John Mullen said.

In April, lawyers for Abaca filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of its operators and up to 2,500 members seeking damages of up to $25,000 for each member and the collective's operators.

Abaca also is fighting a city request for a permanent injunction to shut it down for good.

Mayor Jim Wood said Tuesday he sees no place for medical marijuana dispensaries in Oceanside.

"I don't think they're working very well, and they're not in the best interests of the community," Wood said. "Some of these draw an interesting crowd that's not in the city's interest."

Wood said he supports marijuana for medical uses, but under strict controls under which "a legitimate doctor prescribes them" and prescriptions are filled at pharmacies, just like other medications.

A former police detective, Wood said he's concerned that people who don't have a medical need for the drug can get it at collectives.

Scandalios and other dispensary operators contend that medical marijuana is allowed under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act passed by voters in 1996.

Oceanside homeowner Lisa Carpenter, who operated a collective in Vista until it was shut down in May, said Wood's perception of dispensary clients is wrong.

"I had one 86-year-old woman, she should not have to go to some sketchy area to get her medicine," said Carpenter.

She is among those working with the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access to organize a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot for Oceanside voters to decide.

If the drive is successful, Carpenter said she hopes to reopen in Oceanside.

"I look forward to reopening in the city where I'm a taxpayer," she said. "I'm confident that we have the public support to get by the city's roadblocks."

ASA coordinator Eugene Davidovich said the group plans to bypass the City Council and come up with a draft ordinance that voters could approve to allow dispensaries in Oceanside under strict regulations.

"Within the next couple of months, we absolutely plan on filing and circulating a petition that would include strict, reasonable but fair regulations," Davidovich said. "All we're asking for is strict regulations. The city has made it clear that it will not move toward creating regulations."

Wood said he doubts most city residents would support opening the city to marijuana dispensaries. "I don't foresee they're going to have much luck in this region," he said.

Davidovich said North County Collective was a model operation. "They've gone above and beyond," he said.

Among other things, Scandalios said he installed security cameras and hired security guards.

Scandalios said he initially opened his collective in February on Copperwood Way, but had to move when the property owner forced him to leave after city officials told him dispensaries aren't allowed. He said he reopened on South Coast Highway in May.

"The same law, the same tactic, can be used on any business that the city chooses to go after," Scandalios said.



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