Oceanside council denies zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries

Promise Yee, The Coast News

After moving statements for and against medical marijuana dispensaries, City Council denied zoning on June 25.

George Sadler, owner of Nature’s Leaf Collective, made the request for a zoning change. The dispensary has been operating in Oceanside during ongoing litigations with the city to close it.

Oceanside’s present zoning laws explicitly state that businesses delivering, storing and selling medical marijuana are not allowed.

During the meeting patients spoke about the benefits of using medical marijuana, and the difficulty in finding reliable and safe access to the drug without the help of city zoning.

Vey Linville suffers from emphysema. Doctors recommended he have a double lung transplant.

He did not get the transplant, but did begin using medical marijuana. Linville said he has gotten increasingly healthier.

He is a board member of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

“It offends me to be treated like a criminal,” Linville said.

“We’re not doing anything illegal. We don’t want to do anything illegal. Just give us a tiny place to stand.”

Other supporters said regulations are needed to ensure safe access.

Frank Smith said he is interested in opening a medical marijuana distribution center in Oceanside.

He urged the City Council to set the bar high with strict regulations that prompt professionalism.

Joshua Hamlin attorney for Nature’s Leaf Collective said city regulations would curtail problems of theft, and deny access to minors.

“Robberies do not correspond to regulated dispensaries,” Hamlin said.

“City regulations that allow access is the way to go.”

Those in opposition said it is not the right time to allow dispensaries. Federal pharmaceutical standards need to be established first.

Complaints were made that anybody can obtain a doctor’s recommendation letter for medical marijuana.

A speaker said she worked next to a pot shop, and nearby businesses suffered because of the smoke and unruly customers.

Ray Pearson, president of North Coastal Prevention Coalition, said it’s about keeping marijuana away from kids by decreasing its availability.

“Until the federal government regulates the substance for medical reasons, I’m not able to support it,” Pearson said.

The City Council unanimously agreed dispensaries are not a business fit.

Mayor Jim Wood said he was uncomfortable the zoning change was requested by a for-profit business.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said she was moved by patients’ statements, but feels dispensaries cannot be allowed until there are medical standards that identify patients who genuinely need the drug.

“This is not a business that would be positive with the laws as it is today,” Sanchez said.

“I don’t believe any of us are here to judge. We’re focusing on marijuana, the drug.”

The Planning Commission gave the go ahead to consider a zoning change to allow dispensaries in a 3-2-2 vote in May, with two commissioners absent.

City Council’s decision not to make a zoning change means Nature’s Leaf Collective must close its doors.

City staff acknowledged there are other dispensaries operating in the city, and code enforcement and police will continue to shut them down.