COAST CITIES — While residents in Del Mar and Solana Beach will choose whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the county’s two smallest cities, council action to place the nearly identical measures on the Nov. 6 ballot was not by choice.
Proposition H in Del Mar and W in Solana Beach made their way to the ballot after the Patient Care Association of California, a nonprofit organization of medical cannabis collectives, gathered enough signatures to qualify the initiatives for the upcoming election.
Because enough residents in each city indicated, by way of their signatures, that they wanted the dispensaries, Patient Care created an ordinance and presented it to each council earlier this year.
Council members in both cities had three choices.
They could have adopted the potential new law or agreed to place the measure on the fall ballot. In either case, they could not legally change the wording.
The third option, which Del Mar took but Solana Beach did not, was to order a report on, among other things, the legality of the proposed ordinance, an analysis of the taxing authority and clarification of physicians who can prescribe the drug and under what circumstances.
Solana Beach skipped that step but used the information garnered by the Del Mar report.
Once the report was received, Del Mar was still faced with the same two original options.
According to its authors, the goal of the proposed ordinance is to “ensure safe access to medical cannabis in the (c)ity … for qualified patients and their primary caregivers.”
It includes regulations that limit operating hours and require at least one security guard on duty when the shops are open.
Security cameras, an alarm system and proper lighting would also be required. Marijuana and any food containing it could not be consumed onsite. Alcohol would not be allowed on the premises.
No one younger than 18 could be given medical marijuana unless that person is a qualified patient accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who provides proof of guardianship and signs a statement confirming that status.
Dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of each other and must be in nonresidential zones. They cannot operate within a 600-foot radius of a kindergarten through 12th-grade school or playground unless those facilities begin operating after the dispensary has received its business license.
The city would receive cost-recovery fees and a 2.5 percent sales tax in addition to other state and local taxes. That amount will be reduced to 1 percent if the state ever begins imposing a tax on medical marijuana.
Proponents claim regulating the compassionate use dispensaries will provide safe access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. They say research has shown the drug helps reduce the effects of cancer radiation therapy, debilitating arthritis and other pain conditions.
In their argument in favor of the initiative, they say it includes safety precautions and will ensure the dispensaries are located in proper areas.
Opponents dispute those claims, noting that while use of medical marijuana is legal in California, it is illegal under federal law. They say the initiative is about “selling marijuana for profit.”
There are also concerns the dispensaries will make the drug more accessible to young people.
Officials in both cities have called the initiative poorly written and flawed. Some have said they anticipate a legal battle if the measure passes.
In Del Mar, voters will also be deciding on Proposition J, a decades-long project aimed at revitalizing the downtown area.
The plan will reduce Camino del Mar from four lanes to two and add roundabouts at three intersections. Building heights on the west side of the city’s main street could increase to 26 feet, parking and mixed-use development will be added and sidewalks would be improved.
Proponents claim the project, at no cost to residents, will decrease traffic, create a more pedestrian-oriented, bicycle-friendly corridor, increase parking, decrease pollution and improve the village’s economic viability.
They say zoning changes will improve the look of downtown because they will provide incentives for owners to upgrade their aging properties. Proponents note many buildings don’t comply with current zoning laws, which make improvements cost prohibitive.
Opponents say the village specific plan, as it is called, will worsen traffic, forcing cars to cut through residential streets and reducing the quality of life in those neighborhoods.
They also claim taxpayers could end up footing the bill and the project will increase pollution, result in overdevelopment that will destroy the village charm and lower property values.
Arguments for and against all three initiatives can be found on each city’s website.