I happened to be at the May 16, 2018 Oceanside City Council meeting when David Newman gave an emotional rant during the “items not on the agenda” segment. He and his wife Amber had been regulars at the twice-monthly city council meetings, speaking during this public forum that gives locals three minutes to address anything they want. The couple regularly used their three minutes to explain why Oceanside needs to allow the regulated sales of medicinal marijuana.
On this day, Newman went on the offense, wondering why Oceanside continues to be uptight over a plant that has largely been decriminalized in California while allowing a huge hometown laboratory/factory that manufactures Fentanyl products for worldwide distribution.
Last Sunday, April 28, 60 Minutes aired a segment that Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin, is regularly killing people even as it's being illegally delivered through the U.S. Postal Service. It described Fentanyl as the “rocket fuel” of all the opioid products that caused 47,000 overdose deaths in 2017.
60 Minutes claims that most of the Fentanyl came from China. But last year Newman claimed we are ignoring our own Fentanyl factory right here in Oceanside.
“Oceanside is home to a company that makes transdermal Fentanyl patches,” said Newman. “They get to manufacture a narcotic that is considered 50 to 200 times more powerful than morphine, without any of the regulations, oversight, or compliance you might ask of those who would sell medical marijuana.”
To some at that May, 2018 city council meeting, Newman came off as someone who was bitter over always getting denied by a city council majority over his cannabis initiatives.
But Newman was right.
The 60 Minutes segment focused on China as the major source/exporter of Fentanyl. It did not mention Sparsha Pharma, a five-year-old Oceanside company that is operating with the blessing of the city of Oceanside.
Sparsha Pharma has had an Oceanside business license for five years. According to its website, its 14,000-square-foot industrial park facility at 3919 Oceanic Drive off of Oceanside Boulevard includes high tech laboratories and manufacturing facilities to create its major product, Fentanyl transdermal patches.
One lady who did not identify herself answered the front door buzzer at Sparsha Pharma’s headquarters on April 29. She said nobody at Sparsha Pharma would have anything to say about their operations. “We’re a private company and we don’t give out information,” she said. I left a business card with a request for a return phone call.
So just how does Oceanside view Sparsha Pahrma. A call to appointed city councilman Ryan Keim, who used to work for both the Oceanside Police and San Diego Sheriff departments, said he was not aware of Sparsha Pharma but would have an email response for this article after he looked into it. That response did not arrive by press time.
A public records request was given to the city clerk’s office asking for any details connected to Sparsha Pharma’s business license. That yielded only a image of a current business license that must renewed annually.
In Oceanside you need an expensive and intrusive Conditional Use Permit or C.U.P. to have a business that gives tattoos, issues pay day loans, or gives massages. Records show if you want to make Fentanyl in Oceanside (as in Sparsha Pharma’s case) you don’t even need a C.U.P.
In Newman’s rant last year, he said that medical pot shops, if they did exist in Oceanside, could not be located within 1,000 feet of public or private schools. “In fact,” said Newman, “this company manufactures this life-threatening narcotic less than Less than 1000 feet from a day care center. Where is the outrage? Where are teachers and government funded groups?”
In fact, Sparsha Pharma is just down the street from a pre-school called Discovery Isle, at 3791 Oceanic Way. Newman alleges Oceanside's leniency with Sparsha Pharma is a huge example of hypocrisy.
When the Newmans spoke at city meetings, they were often rebuffed by adversarial groups, including the North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC), a non-profit that accepts public grants and then speaks in public about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
“I was not aware that it had been approved by the city,” said Erica Leary, NCPC’s program manager. “If we had been aware, I’m not sure if we would have commented one way or another. I am not sure how the they are viewed by the federal government.”
But marijuana versus Fentanyl? Really?
“We don’t pit one substance against another,” says Leary. “But I do find it strange that no one from [Sparsha Pharma] would not want to explain how they sell and distribute their product.”
A call to Cameron Korte, special agent with the San Diego office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was not returned.
“As far as I can tell, it’s being manufactured here, then shipped overseas, and then it gets shipped back again to be prescribed," adds Newman.
No calls were returned from Sparsha Farma.
Oceanside has increasingly relied on bio-medical companies to boost its economic base. Oceanside’s largest private employer is Genentech. A call to Genentech corporate about Sparsha Pharma was not returned. Calls to other Oceanside bio-med companies like Ceutix Labs, and Nova Biologics were not returned.
The only response from an Oceanside-based bio-med concern came from one person who worked at Gilead Sciences not far from Sparsha Pharma. He was not aware that his neighbor specialized in Fentanyl products. “I heard that’s not good for you,” he deadpanned. He made it clear he did not speak for Gilead Sciences and he wanted to be anonymous.