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North County Report: Oceanside’s Pared-Down Pot Rules Spark Citizen’s Initiative

Oceanside City Hall

Oceanside City Hall / Photo by Jimmy James

The Oceanside City Council has a medical marijuana policy that doesn’t actually allow for the retail sale of marijuana. A group of supporters wants to change that — and extend it to include recreational marijuana.

In April, the city reviewed and adopted regulations that were a significant departure from those that a council subcommittee had spent six months developing. The final plan stripped retail sale and delivery, but permitted the cultivation, testing, manufacturing and wholesale distribution of medical marijuana.

An aide to a council subcommittee that studied the issue has said personal anti-marijuana biases of certain city staff were to blame. In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana across the state but allowed local governments to determine their own pot rules.

Oceanside’s pared-down effort left marijuana supporters upset, and now that resentment is sparking a new citizen’s initiative.

“Prop 64 passed by 57% of the voters both at a state level and in the city of Oceanside, yet adults in Oceanside still have no options for purchasing cannabis legally,” Kathleen Bates, a resident and member of Oceanside Advocates for Safe Access, said in a statement “This initiative paves the way to ensure that I and others just like me have access to professionally produced and dispensed state-legal cannabis products.”

This week, members of the group announced their initiative at City Hall, which they plan to get on the 2020 ballot, due to the limited time available to qualify for this year’s ballot.

The group is backed by some residents, as well as members of the marijuana industry who once circulated competing initiatives.

Amber Newman, who runs A Soothing Seed collective with her husband, David, said she started talking to the Association of Cannabis Professionals “after the City Council completely floundered safe access.”

Lilac Hills Returns

Lilac Hills, the sprawling development proposal near Valley Center that voters defeated in 2016, is back and headed to County Board of Supervisors for consideration, The Coast News reports this week.

The County Planning Commission on Monday voted to advance the project after the developers changed the project to incorporate recommendations that the commission made in 2015. Back then, the commission tentatively approved the plan, despite recommendations of county staff that they reject it.

The project is expected to go before supervisors in the fall and, as in the last go-around, outgoing Supervisor Bill Horn will likely have to recuse himself.

In 2016, facing a potential deadlock among the supervisors, the developers opted to put Lilac Hill in the hands of voters without the changes that are now part of the plan. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the project, with only 35 percent of voters giving it a “yes” vote. Now, the board’s politics have changed, because Dave Roberts, who opposed the development, was replaced by Kristin Gaspar, who supports it.

Cities Adopt Their Budgets

If a city’s budget reflects its priorities, Vista values public safety, San Marcos wants to build a downtown, and Oceanside just wants to keep up with infrastructure maintenance.

The Union-Tribune reports that Vista approved a $79 million budget, with the largest share going to fire and sheriff’s services. The budget also includes a $300,000 surplus, which the City Council still might use to hire an additional deputy to patrol parks and public places, according to the U-T.

San Marcos approved a $77 million general fund, but also decided to put $102 million into infrastructure for the Creek District, where the city has long planned to build a downtown. Those changes include bridges, road widening and creek restoration, the U-T reports.

Oceanside approved a $152 million general fund budget, up significantly from last year, due to the decision to make CalPERS contributions in one lump-sum payment, to save about $520,000. The budget also includes about $109 million for capital improvements, which goes towards roads, sewers and other infrastructure.

One item some Oceanside residents hoped to see in the budget was a new aquatics center at El Corazon park, estimated to cost up to $16 million. The council has repeatedly balked at the new pools, due to their $1 million annual operating costs.

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