ENCINITAS — A pro-cannabis group in San Diego has targeted Encinitas, among several other county cities, as ground zero for the battle to legalize the retail sale, wholesale distribution, manufacturing and cultivation of the plant.
The Association of Cannabis Professionals on Aug. 22 filed a notice of intent to circulate a petition in Encinitas to collect signatures for a proposed initiative that would authorize the aforementioned activities.
Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, Chula Vista and Santee have also been hit with the same initiative.
The group has until Feb. 20, 2018, to collect signatures of 10 percent of the city’s 41,000 registered voters to put the item on the next regular election ballot, or 15 percent of the electorate to force a special election.
The Coast News reached out to the group’s executive director, Dallin Young, for comment, and will update the story once it is received.
The proposed initiative would allow for the following:
• One cannabis retailer per 15,000 residents permitted, with the council authorized to allow more.
• A separation of 1,000 feet from sensitive uses such as daycare centers, schools or playgrounds required.
• Operating hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, and a security guard on the premises.
• Commercial growing of marijuana could take place only on agriculturally zoned properties, inside a greenhouse or building, with no visibility from the street, no public access and no on-premises sales.
• Manufacturing and distributing marijuana products would be allowed in business park or light industrial zones.
This is the latest salvo in the battle over the future of cannabis in Encinitas, which has pitted advocates on both sides of the issue since early this year, when the City Council formed a subcommittee to consider crafting regulations for commercial cannabis cultivation and deliveries on a limited basis.
Cannabis sales, cultivation and distribution have been controversial subjects that cities have grappled with in the wake of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis use. Its passage created a complex system of regulations on top of the state’s existing regulations on medicinal cannabis. But the rules left issues such as growing the plant for cities to decide.
Encinitas voters supported Proposition 64 by a 64-36 margin, the largest margin in the county. But voters in 2014 voted against medical cannabis storefronts.
Encinitas officials chose to consider cultivation and delivery because they were likely the areas some of the public would support. The subcommittee could return later this year or early next year with an ordinance that would regulate both activities.
At least one of the biggest supporters of cannabis cultivation expressed concern that the initiative would detract from the subcommittee’s efforts.
Bob Echter is the owner of Dramm and Echter, one of the last remaining local flower growers. He has been at the forefront of the pro-cultivation movement, which he said would allow for agricultural outfits in Encinitas to remain viable.
But Echter said he doesn’t think the public will be as supportive of the all-inclusive initiative as they would a city-adopted ordinance dealing solely with cultivation.
“The city and the subcommittee have been working hard to go through a thoughtful process, and I think this has taken a little bit away from that process,” Echter said of the initiative. “I am concerned that it is a broader measure, and will have less chance of success than a cultivation ordinance would because it may go counter to the desire of most citizens.
“My hope is the council will see through their process from the subcommittee level to the City Council,” Echter said.
Meanwhile, anti-drug advocates have attended the past three City Council meetings since the council returned from recess, urging the city to abort its pursuit of the cultivation ordinance and prohibit all marijuana related activities.
The speakers have dominated the most recent oral communications, which is the time designated for the public to speak to the council on items that are not on the agenda.
“This is an emerging issue in Encinitas that I expect will reach a feverish pitch,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in a recent newsletter. “I believe we’re seeing the beginning of a tsunami of strong opinion in this culture war.”