Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Vista squeezes pot clinics with 4375 percent fee rise

While Oceanside ponders the storefronts

Justin Christman of Flora Verde: “Our annual business license fee used to be $640 a year. They just told us it will now be $28,000."
Justin Christman of Flora Verde: “Our annual business license fee used to be $640 a year. They just told us it will now be $28,000."

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.

Chris Rodriguez at June 24 council meeting said it is up to local government to fight back “black market thugs who are illegally bringing it into our city."

“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.

Amber Newman and her husband own A Soothing Seed which has been making door-to-door deliveries in Oceanside.

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 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.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Feminist graffiti on Tijuana's cultural center

More visible than a march on city hall
Next Article

Sweet meets heat at Fluster Cluck Hot Chicken

A revamped Nashville chicken stall dishes crispy and spicy enough tenders
Justin Christman of Flora Verde: “Our annual business license fee used to be $640 a year. They just told us it will now be $28,000."
Justin Christman of Flora Verde: “Our annual business license fee used to be $640 a year. They just told us it will now be $28,000."

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.

Chris Rodriguez at June 24 council meeting said it is up to local government to fight back “black market thugs who are illegally bringing it into our city."

“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.

Amber Newman and her husband own A Soothing Seed which has been making door-to-door deliveries in Oceanside.

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 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.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Interview fashionista finds comfort in Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M

Claire still believes in wearing pants while working remotely
Next Article

Feminist graffiti on Tijuana's cultural center

More visible than a march on city hall
Comments
5

Prop Z, approved by Vista voters in November, 2018 was hailed as a great financial boon to the city. Vista is a city that seems, like most others, to be financially strapped. The election was "bought" with huge support from pro-cannabis groups and others with a big potential payoff if it passed. This report seems to indicate that it hasn't been such a boon after all, and that the city is now asking the legal operations to pay for enforcement.

As to these "illegal" operations, it seems that there's no enforcement going on. That is, if they are truly illegal. Or is it that they operate in a legal gray area? It's getting too complicated for most of us to understand.

By the way, the way the photos were placed in the story is confusing. Two photos of Oceanside folks, including Rodriguez, are in the paragraphs describing Vista news. Why not a photo or two of our Vista Village Idiots, aka our city council?

Why these shops are called "clinics" in the headline makes little sense. There's nothing medical about them or what they sell. Try calling them what they are: stores, shops, or maybe "outlets."

Final comment: Chris Rodriguez is making plenty of waves in Oceanside. The group that was gathering signatures to put his recall on the ballot gave up recently. Now he wants to be mayor. As far as calling all those peddlers whom he dislikes "thugs", ask yourself who the "thug" is in all of this debate.

Aug. 5, 2020

Lets be honest. Anything "drug related" will always be a disaster. If you're surprised, you're naive. And Mr. Rodriguez is Mr. Rodriguez. I'll leave it at that.

Aug. 5, 2020

I didn't say, nor did I intend to imply, that I bought those pro-Prop Z appeals. I didn't. As to Rodriguez, we will soon find out how well his real persona sells with the Oceanside voters.

Aug. 5, 2020

Visduh - My comment wasn't in response to your comment. That was my opinion prior to your posting. Do you really think "anything drug related" has to do with you personally? Come on!

Aug. 5, 2020

Fascinating. In plain sight, Vista City Council is trying to put the screws to their newest and already most highly-taxed entrepreneurs. Isn't that a bit odd?

My fellow Vista citizens - regardless of your views on cannabis - should be appalled that the city feels empowered to change their initial agreement with businesses via such an underhanded method, and particularly without any notice or chance for the various business owners to prepare. This is a bold move and - particularly considering the lack of any notice - indicates a disconcerting level of comfort around concocting fees without fear of retribution from their citizens or business owners.

That tax revenue is now going to be in serious jeopardy, and we will of course see a resurgence in illegal activity. Can you think of anyone that might benefit from increasing illegal activity? I'm sure you can.

This is a very poor stance for a politician to take if they're at all concerned over the health of their position; this is a small city, and it doesn't take many votes for things to change considerably.

Let's remind the City Council that they are beholden to us, not vice versa, and the taxes we agree upon cannot and should not be increased (albeit under another, obfuscating name of "fees") without the affirmative vote of the people.

Aug. 5, 2020

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close