Vista loosens regs on medical pot


The City of Vista is rolling in weed money, and it’s only going to increase.

Vista became the only city in North County to allow cannabis dispensaries when the citizen-sponsored Measure Z passed in 2018. Its passage forced the city to allow 11 storefronts to get licensed to sell “medical” pot to adults with a doctor’s note. The first one opened in October 2019, the last in February of this year. The lack of criminal activity and the unexpected tax windfall to city coffers encouraged the Vista city council to allow all 11 dispensaries to also sell cannabis to recreational users.

In Vista you no longer need a medical excuse to buy Blackout Brownie, Grape Ape, or Bubba Kush.

Coastal Wellness became the first shop to get a license to begin selling “recreational”” cannabis on August 12. “Our business was up 60 percent in the first day,” says owner Mike Mellano about his store’s bumped-up bottom line. “And all that came from new customers. Over our first five days selling recreational, we’ve averaged a 58 percent increase in sales.”

Mellano says some people just don’t want to bother with a medical excuse. “Some people are leery of them. People perceive it as getting on a list. Even though that’s not the case, that’s the perception. By allowing adult-use [recreational] we’re able to capture a whole new set of customers.”

City clerk Kathy Valdez oversees Vista’s cannabis licensing. She says seven other dispensaries have also just been approved including March and Ash, Hello Cannabis, Off the Charts, Stiiizy, doctorgreenrx, Speedy Weedy and The Cake House. She expects Vista’s other three, Urbn Leaf, Flora Verde dispensary Vista and Tradecraft Farms, to get approved within the next week.

Vista has contracted with the Orange County auditing firm Hinderliter, de Llamas & Associates to begin performing financial audits of its dispensaries beginning this month. Up to now Vista’s dispensaries have paid their 7 per cent sales tax through their own self-reporting. That honor system yielded an eye-popping $1.5-million to Vista’s general fund for the most recent quarter, April/May/June. This anticipates a $6-million annual boost to Vista’s city hall budget.

That $1.5-million quarterly sales tax figure does not include an annual $19,967 fee which each dispensary pays to cover the City of Vista’s costs to oversee their pot shops. After complaints were filed by the dispensaries, those annual fees were lowered from $28,000.

“It is still an excessive amount, but I’m glad they took a more true-cost approach to this,” says Justin Christman, co-owner of Flora Verde about the readjusted fees. “It’s hard to make a living at this.”

“We were definitely surprised,” says Valdez when Vista’s pot tax income first topped $1-million for the quarter ending September, 2020. “I will also say we have not had many calls [to the sheriff department for criminal activity].” Mellano maintains beer causes more trouble than pot. “The metrics show that breweries get more [police calls] than dispensaries,” says Mellano.

When it became clear that Vista’s cannabis tax income was way over projections, its city council decided in April budget discussions that all annual cannabis tax income over $4-million would not be returned to the dispensaries in the form of tax reduction, but would instead go towards a yet-to-be-named earmark like youth sports, infrastructure or education.

“I would have liked to have seen a fee decrease to help mom-and-pop businesses like us survive,” says Flora Verde’s Christman. “But having been born and raised in Vista, I am glad to see they will be giving 100 per cent of that extra tax money back to the community. It’s clear we’re not high on their priority list. If it’s not going back in our pockets, at least it’s going somewhere good.” Christman says the city council first accepted dispensaries three years ago – kicking and screaming. But now we have a city council that is unanimously behind us.”

But what could derail Vista’s marijuana gravy train? Mellano estimates that two-thirds of his business comes from those who live outside Vista. If adjacent cities were to follow Vista’s lead, any new cannabis emporiums outside the city could eat into Vista’s market share. “Encinitas is next,” Mellano predicts. He says it is unclear if other area cities will take the plunge.

Both Mellano and Christman say their thriving business model is less threatened by other legal dispensaries than by the countywide black market.

“We constantly hear about law enforcement shutting them down,” says Mellano about the illegal shops that keep popping up. “It used to take them about three to six months to shut them down, now it gets done in about a month. It seems like they are putting more resources in that effort.”

Still, County Supervisor Joel Anderson says the county needs to step up its enforcement of illegal dispensaries, many of which are located in his back-country district that includes Alpine San Carlos and Spring Valley. Last week he urged his fellow supervisors to direct the district attorney’s office to “go after the landlords who are in bed” with the illegal dispensary operators by passing an ordinance that would allow the county to usurp their property. Anderson says 64 illegal dispensaries were shut down in six months and that they were responsible for illegal weapons, fires, and shootings and may very well be selling cannabis tainted with hard drugs or poison.

At their August 17 meeting the supervisors unanimously voted to approve the item.

There are five dispensaries that operate legally in the unincorporated areas of the County. Three are in Ramona including Releaf whose general manager Megan only wanted her first name used for this article. Megan says the switch of the board of supervisors to a Democrat majority in November helped the plight of the five shops in unincorporated San Diego County. The new board reversed a sunset ordinance that would have mandated all five close up shop in April 2022.

“The only person still on the board who doesn’t want medical or recreational marijuana is [North County-based Supervisor] Jim Desmond,” says Megan. “For the most part the other four support support what we are doing.”

The new board of supervisors has directed staff to put together a new comprehensive cannabis law that will allow those five dispensaries to also sell to recreational customers, and will allow them to increase the foot-print of their retail space by 10,000 square feet. Megan says that the five shops are united and do not support Desmond’s reelection next year. “We would not go out and fight Desmond, but we would support someone who would run against him who is more open to cannabis.”

Supervisor Desmond has been known to say, “I wouldn’t want a dispensary in my neighborhood, so I’m going not to vote to put one in yours.”

That new law will allow new dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county but not until the second half of 2023. Part of that new ordinance set to be brought forward in October, calls for a Social Equity Program that would provide individuals with past cannabis arrests and/or convictions with a greater chance to secure a county permit to operate any new San Diego dispensaries in the county.

Desmond is against the new ordinance and its social equity provision. “This is an absolute assault on the unincorporated areas of the county,” says Desmond’s deputy chief of staff Ben Mills. “We shouldn’t be rewarding bad behavior and that’s exactly what this ordinance will do.”

Meanwhile Vista’s Mellano and Christman say Supervisor Anderson’s focus on illegal storefront dispensaries does nothing to address the worst part of the cannabis black market. “It’s nearly impossible to track and trace [deliveries].” says Christman. “It’s an almost impossible endeavor to track who is driving around to deliver cannabis illegally.”

Vista loosens regs on medical pot2022-09-27T10:46:32-07:00

Escondido Debates Marijuana


After delaying a discussion in March on whether or not to allow cannabis sales, Escondido has again hit snooze.

The city has been studying potential regulations since last August, but despite the fact that about half of residents support commercial cannabis, the council is still divided.

Public safety data showing a steep rise in adult DUI arrests and juvenile possession furthered the opposition.

Of three options discussed last week, three council members wanted to maintain the city’s 2018 ban on dispensaries. Two others favored rules that would legalize cultivation, processing, and retail sales of medicinal and/or recreational cannabis.

Another option would direct further study, including tracking of revenue trends and regulations in other cities.

A staff report noted that carving out rules for both recreational and medicinal use “arguably addresses public opinion regarding cannabis cultivation and use” ? as several speakers reminded the council.

“The lack of dispensaries and access to cannabis has become devastating,” said Karla Aguilar, who spoke about equity, including the hardship on those who lack transportation to obtain pot, which can necessitate a 30-minute drive. “We ask that black and indigenous and people of color have support to be able to sell in our city.”

Aguilar pointed out that California voters passed Proposition 64 to legalize cannabis in 2016, and many other communities have made it accessible. “I am disappointed yet again by this council, choosing to delay this conversation time and time again.”

Others pointed out that delivery is a phone call away. But it still means relying on delivery from outside Escondido.

Half of San Diego cities now allow cannabis for medicinal, recreational, or both uses. The rest prohibit it. The county is working on rules that would legalize sales for recreational use and create social equity to give more people a chance to participate.

By not creating an ordinance, cities face losing control, should voters propose a ballot initiative. In fact, by 2020 most ballot initiatives were initiated by city councils, the staff report said.

“I see this as something that is going to happen in our city, and I would much rather get ahead of it and us have control of where those dispensaries go,” said councilmember Consuelo Martinez.

“If we don’t take action this evening” ? if we decide to “just not take leadership of this controversial issue, then we’re really just folding our hands, burying our heads in the sand, and eventually, a ballot measure will appear,” she said.

“And who knows how many dispensaries will be coming to Escondido?”

So far, few cities have had dispensaries in place long enough to really know what the fiscal benefits will be. But La Mesa, San Diego and Vista, which have more than one or two longer-term dispensaries, earn about $50,000 annually per dispensary.

Estimates show that Escondido could generate over $2,000,000 annually in sales, assuming five dispensaries and a solid permitting and code enforcement process.

But first-year costs will be especially high, said city manager Chris McKinney. Developing regulations will cost $150,000 and as businesses open, code enforcement and policing will tack on $200,000.

Then there are the illegal dispensaries that crop up to compete with the legal outlets. All county jurisdictions that allow cannabis sales report more illegal operators opening after passage of a local ordinance.

Tax revenue may flow, but San Diego and Chula Vista have faced additional costs for code enforcement and catching illegal operators.

When cannabis was legalized statewide in 2016, illegal dispensaries boomed in Escondido. Over 30 were shut down. The city hasn’t had any since 2019, but expects a comeback if an ordinance is passed.

Councilmember Michael Morasco, who staunchly opposes all efforts to open dispensaries in Escondido, held to his view that most residents oppose commercial cannabis. Trying to find middle ground “puts us in an area where we have not wanted to be,” he said.

Neighbors Poway, San Marcos and others, like Solana Beach, have rejected it.

“I don’t care if we get one single tax dollar from cannabis.”

But the major concern of many opponents had to do with what McKinney said are “significant safety concerns.”

Police chief Ed Varso said adult DUI arrests for marijuana were up 320 percent from 2018 to 2020.

Youth possession also spiked over 300 percent from 2016 to 2019, including both middle school and high school cases. Known as diversion cases, the juveniles are diverted to a system called Compact that keeps them out of detention.

Data from Compact shows that in 2017, pot accounted for about 22 percent of diversion cases. In 2019, that rose to 74 percent, nearly three-quarters of all cases.

Mary Anne Dijak, manager of youth violence and prevention with Compact, urged the council “to put the brakes on this.” Cannabis was legalized before there were rules in place to keep kids safe, she said.

Comparing it to alcohol businesses, she said “it takes probably years to get rid of” a bad actor, arguing the same will happen if dispensaries open.

The dispensaries “will inevitably show up in areas where our most vulnerable kids are, who will have to walk past that every day.”

Mayor Paul McNamara said the black market isn’t going away. “It’s pretty much adults who can afford to go to a dispensary. So our youth are still at risk, whether we have dispensaries or not.”

Escondido Debates Marijuana2021-05-25T12:34:48-07:00

National City says no to marijuana

Lounges were part of package

A year ago, as National City began drafting its first ordinance to allow commercial cannabis, the city council even voted to include consumption lounges.

Until then, the city was hardly at the forefront of cannabis law, having banned adult-use dispensaries weeks before California voters passed Proposition 64. But the proposal has hit a pothole.

On Monday (March 15), the National City Planning Commission voted to deny changes to the city code that would allow retail sales, distribution, cultivation, and manufacturing of medical marijuana.

Staff recommended approval, but only commissioner Damian Roman supported the amendments. Commissioner Ditas Yamane cited a “lack of information,” as the city council continues to hammer out the details of the zoning changes.

The new regulations would allow up to six businesses, including lounges, in the industrial zones and in the tourist commercial areas west of Interstate 5, where adults could buy, smoke, eat or drink marijuana.

According to staff reports, the tourist commercial zone currently allows for uses “consistent with consumption lounges and retail without having to make changes to the current zoning.”

In 2019 the city hired cannabis consultants HdL, who provided direction for the ordinance, community outreach and a fiscal analysis of the revenue that could be generated through a Community Benefits fee (a similar amount to a cannabis business tax) as part of the development agreement for each permitted cannabis business.

Surveys conducted by HdL found that more than half of respondents strongly support allowing cannabis businesses in National City (64.29 percent were National City residents). More than 60percent said they strongly support the use of medical marijuana.

The city’s prohibition on cannabis businesses is not unusual. Other cities with bans include Coronado, Del Mar, El Cajon, Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, and San Diego County.

Those that allow medicinal-only cannabis businesses are Lemon Grove, Oceanside, and Vista. Cities that allow both medicinal and adult-use cannabis businesses include Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, San Diego and Encinitas.

Attorney Jennifer Gilman said National City’s ordinance will have to be brought into compliance with city and state regulations and again come before the planning Commission, but commissioners could choose one of three options on the city-initiated land use amendment: approve, deny or continue the item.

Commissioner Yamane recommended denial “based on finding that the land use is not a desirable or necessary use.”

National City says no to marijuana2021-03-17T13:41:11-07:00

Vista squeezes pot clinics with 4375 percent fee rise


By playing by the rules and turning in an estimated $175,000 a month in extra tax dollars the city of Vista has rewarded its six pot dispensaries with a remarkable thank you gift.

“They told us we are turning in three times what they expected,” says Justin Christman, owner of Flora Verde which has been open since October.

He did not expect what was came next.

“Our annual business license fee used to be $640 a year,” says Christman. “They just told us it will now be $28,000. We never got a phone call or any discussion that this was even being considered. It’s a fucking joke.”

All six Vista dispensaries are medicinal only which means all customers must have a doctor’s note to wrest their weed.

Christman says the reason the city of Vista gave for this mandatory 4375 percent increase in fees was that it will cost Vista that much to launch a new accounting program, where a city-hired auditor will come on site to do extensive auditing at each dispensary. He says this increase is “…not legitimate. There is no way it will cost them that much money and take that much time to do this. What they are trying to do is come in and look at our books.”

City clerk Kathy Valdez oversees marijuana licensing in Vista. She says that the new $28,000 fee passed by the city council June 23 is not actually a business license fee, but rather a “required auditing fee” that all dispensaries must now pay beginning with the current fiscal year that began July 1. Valdez says the city has hired an outside consultant to determine if the $28,000 amount is too high and if so, it could be adjusted downward after the first year.

None of the Vista dispensaries contacted wanted to divulge their monthly tax payment to the city. Some estimate that the busiest dispensaries pay as much as $75,000 a month. City Clerk Valdez says that as of June 30, the six turned in $1.3 million in new, so-called Measure Z taxes, named after the initiative that forced the city to allow medicinal dispensaries to open.

News of Vista’s pot tax windfall reached Oceanside city councilman Christopher Rodriguez who just announced he is running for mayor. At Oceanside’s June 24 council meeting he gave a dramatic speech that referred to the Vista model as the right way to tax and regulate this inevitable industry, and urged his fellow councilmembers to allow the opening of its own storefront dispensaries.

His plea struck some as an earnest desire to look out for area youth. Others saw it as a return to Refer Madness hysteria.

“My father was a Latin King,” Rodriguez said at the June 24 meeting in explaining that his father was a gang member. “He moved cocaine and dealt drugs.” But marijuana, says Rodriguez, was his “beginning.” And now, the Chicago native, the evils of marijuana have hit Oceanside. “Two-thirds of the marijuana that’s circulating through our city right now is from illegal operations.”

The Republican gave his take on the role of government. “It’s government’s responsibility to look at facts and think ‘How can we stop the black market?’” Rodriguez says it is up to local government to fight back “black market thugs who are illegally bringing it into our city and funneling it to our kids and who are now using it more than alcohol.” He said it’s up to him and his council colleagues, “…to put an end to the thugs’ game.”

Rodriguez dramatically implored his council colleagues to schedule a special meeting in July so it could craft a ballot initiative in time for the November ballot. (Oceanside city council traditionally takes the month of July off). That initiative would have asked Oceanside voters to approve dispensaries. He pointed out that Vista’s six legal dispensaries are helping to keep minors from getting marijuana. He suggested Oceanside should be getting some of that pot tax that is enriching Vista.

The council said no to Rodriguez’s request for a special meeting in July. As a result, there will not be a dispensary question on Oceanside ballots in November.

But Rodriguez’s rant appeared to be calling one of his fellow candidates on the November ballot a thug. Amber Newman and husband David have long been supporting legalized cannabis in Oceanside. The Newmans own A Soothing Seed which has been making door-to-door deliveries to individuals for years. David Newman told me in April that they plan to continue operating A Soothing Seed.

When asked by email if he meant to call a fellow candidate a thug, Rodriguez responded: “Those that sell and illegally profit from minors are thugs. If the Newmans illegally sell to minors, then yes they fit my statement.” Amber Newman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Oceanside Police does not actively pursue illegal marijuana delivery services. OPD Lt. Matt Cole has said there is not noticeable crime activity connected with the deliveries. City attorney John Mullen declined to comment on Oceanside’s decision to make on illegal delivery services a low priority.

Three members of the legal cannabis industry in North County all wish there would be more enforcement of illegal deliveries. But they do not agree with Rodriguez’s “thug” slur.

Mike Mellano owns Coastal Wellness Dispensary in Vista and would like to eventually open a similar shop in Oceanside. He says it is not fair that he will be paying the new $28,000 Vista fee as well as an additional $40,000 a year in annual license fees to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control while those who drop weed off at houses pay nothing.

“I don’t know if I would have used [thug], but it is absolutely unlawful what [illegal delivery services] are doing. What do you call a person who is committing a crime?”

“Calling anybody out like that is unprofessional, and will not get us where we get to go,” says Flora Verde’s Christman. “I’m opposed to the black market as much as anybody out there. They are getting an unfair competitive advantage. It’s not a level playing field. However, I don’t blame the black market because the barrier to even enter the market from the financial and regulatory standpoint is asinine.”

“I feel there are better terminologies [than thugs],” says Gracie Morgan of Oceanside’s first and only dispensary called Medleaf which opened two weeks ago. Medleaf is delivery-only, which means it will be competing legally against A Soothing Seed and all the other delivery services which aren’t licensed.

She says illegal storefronts get immediate attention by law enforcement, but that delivery services just don’t get the same attention. “We haven’t seen pressure applied to all of the illicit market.”

While dispensaries in Vista and Ramona often opened with much fanfare and Chamber of Commerce-sponsored grand opening events, Medleaf’s opening was kept on the down-low. Morgan says she did not want the exterior of her building photographed for this article. She declined to go into specifics on current business volume.

Vista squeezes pot clinics with 4375 percent fee rise2020-08-05T11:07:09-07:00

Red White & Bloom Brands Signs Binding Letter Of Intent To Acquire 100% Of Platinum Vape


– Platinum is a premium cannabis brand with a current annualized revenue run rate in excess of US $70,000,000 with EBITDA between 25%-30% without forward synergies of an additional estimated 7%-10%

– Platinum Vape products, including vapes, packaged flower, edibles and pre-rolls are sold at over 700 retailers in Michigan, California and Oklahoma

TORONTO, July 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (CSE: RWB and OTC: RWBYF) (“RWB” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has signed a binding letter of intent (the “LOI”) to acquire a group of California-based companies operating under the name Platinum Vape (Platinum Vape” or “Platinum”) with an expected closing in the current quarter.

The acquisition of Platinum Vape is the first acquisition by RWB since going public and also marks RWB’s entry into California, furthering the Company’s strategic plan of expansion. Platinum Vape are purveyors of a full product line of premium cannabis products sold at over 700 retailers throughout Michigan, California and Oklahoma boasting an 84% rating (4.2/5) on

Platinum was started 9 years ago by father and son duo, George and Cody Sadler. Fresh out of college, Cody convinced his Father to embark on what has become a storied journey ever since. Based on the principles of quality, hard work and customer service, they grew the business with no outside investors into one of the most successful and storied brands in the space today. With the success came numerous media stories and appearances with some of the most notable pieces being:

Brad Rogers, Chairman & CEO of RWB, commented: “George and Cody, the founders and operators of Platinum Vape, are visionaries in the cannabis market and have done an incredible job in building the pre-eminent vape company in the United States through commitment to quality, education, and the communities they serve. One of the things that struck me is the balance they have achieved in running a profitable successful business, which will add tremendously to RWB’s top and bottom lines, while maintaining their commitment to supporting social issues, both financially and through awareness with the REACT program they established. As part of the RWB family, I look forward to supporting the growth of Platinum and the tradition of excellence established by Platinum and the incredible people that have made them a success.”

George and Cody Sadler, Founders of Platinum Vape, commented: “We at Platinum Vape are excited to have done such an amazing deal to integrate PV into the RWB family.  Cody and I have been building the business for nine years so far and feel that RWB is the best place to continue not only the growth of PV for us, but for our family as well. We couldn’t be happier with our decision.”

Red White & Bloom Brands Signs Binding Letter Of Intent To Acquire 100% Of Platinum Vape2020-07-24T14:59:35-07:00

Pro-pot, Nathan Fletcher goes after vaping


“He is absolutely unwilling to listen”

Update: Minutes after this story appeared, James Canning, spokesman for Nathan Fletcher, said, “The Vaping Ordinance will now not come back before the Board until September.”

“They are trying to force people to stop vaping, but this will not do it.”

Shon Elfarra owns a small shop in Fallbrook called Smoke Chalet. He says a new countywide law may put him out of business. The specifics of that new law are to be unveiled at the next county board of supervisors meeting on May 19.

“Vaping is 40 percent of my business,” says Elfarra. “How will I make it?”

It has already been decided there will be a new anti-vaping ordinance that will go into effect July 1. It will forbid all stores in the unincorporated areas of the county to stop selling vaping devices for at least one year, and place a complete ban on flavored vaping liquid, and all flavored tobacco products including mentholated cigarettes.

Elfarra is one of four businesses in Fallbrook who exclusively sell smoke products. Those stores, plus about 32 others in Alpine, Ramona, Spring Valley, Campo, Lakeside, Jamul, and Rancho San Diego will see a huge part of their income evaporate.

“Those 36 businesses will be completely out of business,” says Molly Sylvester of El Cajon who owns Vapin’ the 619 located just outside her hometown. She is the chairwoman of a group called Communities for Safer Vaping. “And then you’re talking about another 150 businesses like the liquor stores and gas station markets who sell vaping products. They will lose five to 25 per cent of their business. When it’s that much, now you’re talking about employees losing their jobs.”

There is just not much money to be made in retailing cigarettes says Elfarra. He says he makes about 49 cents per pack. “I will spend $79 for a carton and then sell each pack for $8.39.”

An employee at a different Fallbrook business who asked his name not be used says his store absolutely supports the idea that minors should not be allowed to buy vaping products. He says he is happy that the state sends in decoys to prove that no one under 21 can buy tobacco products. “But all kids have to do is go online and click a box that says they are 21 and they can get anything they want sent to them.” And he says that if his store is no longer allowed to sell vaping products, Fallbrook locals need only go to Vista or Oceanside to buy from a storefront. None of the county’s 18 cities ban the sale of vaping products.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher spearheaded the anti-vaping ordinance last fall, and he was successful in getting fellow supervisors Greg Cox and co-author Dianne Jacobs to sign on. Fletcher did not respond to a request for comment for this article made through his press aide James Canning.

Supervisor Jim Desmond voted against the anti-vaping law as half of the losing end of the 3-2 minority. His North County district includes Fallbrook. Desmond says he anticipated that the new law may indeed snuff out small Fallbrook businesses like Smoke Chalet, Holy Smoke Shop and Fallbrook Smoke Shop.

“We’ve heard from many businesses who are struggling, which we knew would be the outcome when this [ordinance] was passed,” says Desmond. “It’s unfortunate for businesses on the brink of going under.”

Every retailer contacted agreed that the major public health concern involves the well-publicized vaping of marijuana/THC. That vaping has been linked with permanent lung damage and some 60 deaths nationwide since it is often ingested with the harmful “Vitamin E”/acetate additive. Desmond says this new county law, “…doesn’t address the actual issue. The actual issue of [vaping of] THC products that are harming people across the county.”

At the May 19 meeting it will be explained how the county’s health department infrastructure will be redirected to implement this anti-vaping law. But is this the time to start turning busy county health officials into vaping police?

“At a time like this, we need to focus our time, energy and resources on safely re-opening our economy, not on implementing new, unnecessary ordinances,” says Sylvester. She says she has no problem with the establishment of a countywide tobacco retail license.

“I knew of a couple in PB who were selling to minors for over a year,” says Sylvester. “I don’t believe in getting involved in other people’s business, but last year I decided they were detrimental to the entire business. So I decided not to be quiet any more. We told the police.”

As Sylvester sees it, Supervisor Fletcher is actually harming the health of the county since vaping is used by many to get off cigarettes. “He wants to eliminate the product that is saving lives. He wants to leave cigarettes on the market which is responsible for over 480,000 [U.S.] deaths a year.” She says that all but one of the 60 deaths in the U.S. reportedly caused by vaping were connected with cannabis. “And the one that was not [cannabis-related] had pre-existing health issues. Vaping THC with the Vitamin E/acetate additive caused all the deaths and now Fletcher wants to demonize the whole vaping industry. But we have nothing to do with that.”

Sylvester notes that Fletcher has historically been pro-pot. “He is an advocate for cannabis. That’s why he refused to even say the word ‘cannibis.’ He won’t talk about it [in connection with vaping] because it doesn’t fit in with his political agenda.”

Ramon Mansour of El Cajon is the co-chair of Communities for Safer Vaping. His family is a longtime wholesale supplier of vaping products to many area stores. He says none of his stores sells to anyone under 21 and his company does not market the Vitamin E/acetate additive. He says Fletcher has turned this law into an opportunity for “grandstanding.”

“We’ve tried multiple times to reason with [Fletcher] but he is absolutely unwilling to listen,” says Mansour. “This guy has a particular agenda and he wants to stick with it…. Part of this law will also outlaw the sale of Newport cigarettes and flavored pipe tobacco like Cherry Cavendish. What does that have to do with youth vaping?”

Mansour says Communities for Safer Vaping has hired an attorney and may consider a lawsuit against the county. He declined to name the attorney.

Not all merchants have a clear understanding of what the new law may bring. Jimmy Malee says he understands his Holy Smoke Shop in Fallbrook will not be impacted by the new law because his store has moved away from the Juul flavored liquid that must be added to vaping devices and towards the self-contained, disposable vaping devices including the popular Puff Bars brand. “It has the juice already in it,” says Malee. The law, however, will also outlaw the self-contained Puff Bar devices in Fallbrook and the rest of the unincorporated parts of the county.

Malee and Elfarra say they would consider joining a lawsuit against the county if one materialized.

Pro-pot, Nathan Fletcher goes after vaping2020-05-07T10:57:46-07:00

Oceanside pro-weed advocates envy Vista’s marijuana clinics

“The state got us last time, and apparently a pandemic got us this time.”

David Newman admits that his second attempt to allow legal pot shops to open in Oceanside is now dead on the vine. He and members of Oceanside Voters for Safe Access have decided to pull the plug on their efforts to get signatures for the their initiative. If enough valid signatures were collected, voters in November could have forced the city to allow dispensaries to open in Oceanside, defying city council.

Newman spearheaded a similar pro-weed initiative in 2018 which was abandoned. “Safe Access” supporter Dallin Young says only 3,000 signatures had been collected for this current petition as of February. The 180-day window to collect 9,609 signatures closes May 15.

“This virus puts all petitions on hold,” explains Newman. He says the only thing that would save the Safe Cannabis Act petition, would be if the governor would sign an emergency act that would allow people to sign petitions via the internet. “But I’m not holding my breath on that.” Insiders say two petitions to recall two councilmembers in Oceanside have become dormant.

Meanwhile the six dispensaries open in next-door Vista are thriving. They were allowed to exist by the citywide passage of Measure Z in 2018. On a recent Sunday evening, a security guard at Up North Cannabis on Vista Way was checking patrons with a body temp scanner. No one with a fever got through the second glass door to buy Grape Krush or Sugar Mints buds. There were about five patrons inside. Flora Verde on Santa Fe Avenue had about the same number of clients. Vista dispensaries only sell to those with a medical recommendation.

“I was doubling my business every three days before the Corona hit,” says Mike Mellano whose Coastal Wellness has only been open in Vista for five weeks. “If it hadn’t hit, I’d be killing it.”

Mellano says after the mass COVID-19 shutdown of three weeks ago, all the Vista dispensaries showed an immediate surge in business. “From what I heard, everyone had a big rush. Everyone out there was stocking up. Now it’s a little slower. I’d say we are doing 30 percent less of what we were doing that big week. Now it’s normalized. There’s not a ton of growth, but it’s steady.”

The city of Vista has issued 11 cannabis licenses. Mellano says the six that have opened so far are friendly with each other and with the sheriff deputies and city staff who visit. His beef is with the black market. He estimates that at any given time there are four to six illegal shops operating in the unincorporated county area between Vista and San Marcos.

“A month or two ago they closed down a shop in that strip and the very next day it looked like they opened up across street,” says Mellano. “It used to be it would take a month to close them down the second time. In this case they closed them down immediately. It seems like law enforcement is speeding up, and that’s a very good thing.”

Mellano says he would like it if the Vista dispensaries that can now only sell only to medical patients, be allowed to switch to adult use (recreational use). He says it is conceivable the Vista City Council, long adverse to marijuana retail, may see the light now that traditional tax income is reaching pandemic lows. “I’ll be making my first tax payment, which is seven percent of my sales, to the city on the 30th. They’ll be seeing a bunch of new tax revenue from us which would probably double if we went to adult use.”

Flora Verde was the second dispensary to open in Vista when it debuted six months ago. Owner Justin Christman says his store is about to make its second quarterly payment to Vista. “This one is almost triple of the first.” He adds that with the six dispensaries open, there is enough profit for everyone. He says only time will tell if eleven will be too many once the other five licensees open. “It’s like supermarkets, you can only have so many to be viable.”

Is Vista’s tax base benefitting from the fact that Oceanside and Carlsbad have no cannabis storefronts? “I would say that 20 percent of our business comes from customers outside of our five-mile radius,” says Christman.

While Oceanside does not permit dispensaries, it has passed ordinances allowing cultivation, manufacturing, and delivery. So far only one applicant, a delivery service known as MedLeaf, has made it to the conditional-use-permit stage. Manager/spokeswoman Gracie Morgan says Covid-19 has apparently slowed down the approval process: their March 25 approval hearing was postponed indefinitely.

“We want to work with the city, and have a ribbon cutting, and make cannabis legitimate just like any other business,” she says.

Once open, Morgan says the Medleaf business on on San Luis Rey Road in the Oceanside Industrial Park will employ ten delivery drivers. She says Medleaf’s main competition will be black market delivery. “We need to have legal delivery with licensed metric tracking.”

But what harm does black market cannabis delivery cause? Lieutenant Matt Cole oversees special enforcement for the Oceanside Police department. Before that, he served as a watch commander. He says that according to his experience, he is not aware of much crime activity associated with the home delivery of cannabis.

Meanwhile David Newman says Oceanside’s out-of-touch approach to cannabis, “shoves people like us into the black market.” Newman says his home delivery service, A Soothing Seed, has been making home deliveries in North County for years. He says A Soothing Seed will continue its door-to-door drops.

Oceanside Planning Commission Chairman Kyle Krahel signed on as proponent of the Oceanside Safe Cannabis Act. He says it is an “inevitability” that Oceanside and Vista will eventually allow regulated recreational retail shops, although it may be necessary for “new blood” to arrive at each city council. “The ship of state turns slowly.”

Oceanside pro-weed advocates envy Vista’s marijuana clinics2020-05-07T10:34:56-07:00
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