The day after the City of Oceanside closed the Nature’s Leaf marijuana dispensary on October 31, city attorney John Mullen drove by the shuttered business near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Hwy 78.
“I drove by Natures Leaf the first Saturday it closed and two kids were passing flyers telling people to go to San Diego Street for their ‘sister’ store,” Mullen says in an email. “The kids were stopping cars as they drove by.”
That may have not been a good idea for the “sister” store, Chronic Pain Releaf, located near Oceanside’s downtown. Mullen says that ownership connection means that the operators were in violation of a stipulated judgment agreement to not open or promote another retail pot shop in Oceanside. Mullen says the flyer led to Oceanside police criminally citing the individuals running Chronic Pain Releaf at 218 San Diego Street.
“This is our first criminal prosecution [involving marijuana dispensaries]. There is coordination going on between the Nature’s Leaf people and the San Diego Street dispensary…. [T]heir blatant disregard for the court’s order illustrates the need to pivot our strategy.”
It didn't stop there.
“The city separately filed a nuisance abatement action against the owners of the land as they are liable for violations of the zoning ordinance," says Mullen.
Oceanside, like most other North County cities, do not allow medical dispensaries. The City of Oceanside staff spent over a year to get Natures Leaf to go away. Mullen thinks his message got through.
“Those [property] owners served a three day notice to quit on the tenants [December 2] after receiving our letter telling them they are being sued.” Chronic Pain Releaf has been advertising on weedmaps.com since it opened October 24, in spite of published statements by Oceanside city councilmembers saying such businesses would not be allowed.
A call was made to the store on December 3 asking for comment. A female employee said she would have someone return the call. No one called back.
Oceanside police spokesman Lt. Leonard Cosby says he is aware that the city attorney is pursuing prosecution, but that he was not aware of any specific action planned by the OPD.
“All I know is one of our [plain-clothed] officers was in the area [of the San Diego Street dispensary] last week and one of their employees flagged him down trying to drum up business.”
Longtime locals recognize the Chronic Pain Relief building as one with a historic significance. From 1968 to 2000 it housed El Charrito, a much beloved, family-owned Mexican food restaurant that was a kind of cultural anchor for its “Eastside” or “Posole” Mexican-American neighborhood.
“It was Oceanside’s first good Mexican café,” says Ernie Gobbi, whose family ran El Charrito. “This was back before there were any other good Mexican restaurants…. Everyone from the city used to come there. The police station used to be right across the street, so all the cops and firemen came. Plus, all the mayors and councilmen and city hall people came in to eat. The Oceanside Historical Society even gave us a plaque.”
Records show that the building is owned by Alfredo and Blanca Garcia, who also own El Nopalito Market two blocks away. A call to Mr. Garcia about the dispensary was relayed to a Yolanda in San Diego, who said an attorney would call back to address how the affair was being handled. No return call .