Oceanside could allow its first in-store cannabis sales under a proposal discussed last week by the City Council.
Council members asked city staffers to prepare options for making two licenses available for on-site retail stores and to prioritize businesses that already have other cannabis-related operations in the city.
The Oceanside City Council adopted an ordinance in 2018 to allow medical marijuana businesses only in specific industrial and agricultural zones. The ordinance was later amended to add recreational uses and to include two retail delivery licenses, but not on-site sales.
Meanwhile, Vista, Oceanside’s neighbor to the east, allows in-store sales. Vista has collected over $18 million in sales revenue from about a dozen outlets since 2020, according to information provided to Oceanside city staffers by Vista’s finance director.
Oceanside City Council members said their city is missing out on a significant source of revenue.
“We already permit it to be delivered,” said Oceanside Councilmember Eric Joyce. “We have a policy that doesn’t seem to make sense. If we are going to do it, let’s take advantage of it and put the money back into our children.”
Joyce and Councilmember Rick Robinson suggested the city approve four on-site licenses and use the tax revenue for youth development programs such as community resource centers, scholarships and gang and drug prevention. Joyce and Robinson are the council’s two newest members, both elected to their first term in November.
“We are just asking staff to come back with a proposal for us that we can discuss and then vote on,” Robinson said.
Councilmember Peter Weiss made a motion to reduce the suggested in-store licenses from four to two, and to consider ways to give priority to businesses that already have an Oceanside cannabis license.
“Four storefronts and two delivery licenses is just too much,” Weiss said.
The council vote 4-1 in favor of the idea, with Mayor Esther Sanchez opposed. She said the sales would increase access to cannabis for young people, and, “I don’t want to raise revenue that way.”
City Manager Jonathan Borrego said the issue could return to the council in about 120 days with options for implementation.
About 18 people signed up to speak on the issue, and passionate arguments were heard on both sides.
“I am so livid it is hard for me to speak,” said Suzanne Hume of CleanEarth4Kids.org, who has often addressed the council to oppose legal cannabis and other issues such as the use of pesticides, synthetic turf, beach campfires and leaded aviation fuel.
“This is going to hurt our kids,” Hume said. “The facts are clear … anyone can google this.”
Other opponents included representatives of the North Coastal Prevention Coalition and several women whose remarks in Spanish were translated to English, all of whom said children were their greatest concern.
Supporters included several Oceanside residents and employees of the MedLeaf Delivery, which opened in 2020 in a 4,800-square-foot building on San Luis Rey Road.
“This can be done safely and with compliance,” said MedLeaf’s general manager Karen Tomlinson. “We support a merit-based process (to award licenses) here in Oceanside. I don’t support a lottery.”
Vista used a lottery to award its licenses. Tomlinson and other MedLeaf employees have said at previous public meetings that it is difficult for their Oceanside business to compete with the nearby Vista outlets that allow in-store sales.
Oceanside’s ordinance allows two licenses for delivery-only dispensaries, though MedLeaf is the only one operating presently. The city also issues licenses for cannabis nurseries, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and testing businesses.
Encinitas is the only other North County city so far to legalize retail cannabis sales, after voters there approved Measure H in 2020. Last year, Encinitas used a lottery to award licenses to four of 171 applicants.
San Diego and several other cities across San Diego County allow limited commercial cannabis activities in line with state law. Some cities have passed ordinances to prohibit cannabis sales.