Board approves medical marijuana seminar at fairgrounds

Board approves medical marijuana seminar at fairgrounds
Judi Strang, the executive director of the San Dieguito Alliance For Drug Free Youth, speaks out against the approval of an event that intends to educate audiences on “alternative medicines” at the Nov. 14 22nd DAA Board meeting. Photo by Lexy Brodt

DEL MAR — A Del Mar Fairgrounds event aimed at educating attendees on the use of cannabis as an “alternative medicine” has been approved.

After several residents spoke against the event at the 22nd District Agricultural Association meeting on Nov. 14, the board voted 7-1 to approve its revised contract.

The daylong event, termed the “GoodLife Seminar Series,” will occur on May 11, 2019. It will feature seminars on the difference between CBD and THC, the various strains of marijuana, and how cannabis topicals can be used to treat pain — to name a few. An “Exhibitors Fair” will reveal new products and “innovations” in alternative medicine. The event is expected to draw about 1,000 people.

The series specifically bars the sale or on-site use of any “psychoactive cannabis products,” and prohibits drug paraphernalia — which is in line with the city of Del Mar’s code, as well as the Fairground’s more recent policy prohibiting the sale, distribution, consumption or possession of the drug on its property.

Board Director Lisa Barkett — the sole opposing vote — said that renting out space for an event at the fairgrounds is tantamount to promoting it.

“I don’t know why we want to go down this road,” she said.

Barkett’s concerns were reflective of the nine public speakers who weighed in on the issue — all opposed to the contract’s approval.

Becky Rapp, a mother of six, said the fairgrounds will be sending a “message of normalization” by hosting the event.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone needs that type of education with YouTube and social media,” she said.

The event has prompted widespread, and often mixed community feedback since the fairgrounds general manager first signed a contract with Lawrence Bame, president of the series, in 2017 — a contract which the board rescinded several months later.

But after the state of California legalized the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and up — the board has changed its tune, forming a subcommittee of Directors David Watson and Pierre Sleiman to create an interim policy specifically regulating cannabis-related events.

The policy, approved at the Aug. 14 Board meeting, allows for an “interim event with the purpose of education, advocacy, and promotion only of medical uses of cannabis.”

Judi Strang, executive director of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth, is primarily concerned with the latter two objectives. At a Oct. 29 Del Mar City Council meeting — where council members debated whether to send the 22nd DAA board a letter opposing the event — Strang asserted that the activities described by the event’s contract are commercial in nature.

“We think once you merge over to ‘advocate and promote,’ you definitely are supporting a commercial activity,” Strang said.

The event’s stated goal is to “advocate for the responsible use of all different alternatives to traditional pharmacology products,” according to a press release.

The Del Mar City Council, which previously sent a letter to the board in February opposing any event that would involve on-site smoking, consumption and sale of cannabis products, voted 3-2 against sending another letter to the board. The letter would have reiterated the city’s prior concerns, and expressed a disapproval of any commercial activity. However, council members differed on their definitions of “commercial.”

Councilman Terry Sinnott, who drafted the letter, sees the event as promotional rather than educational.

“I’m concerned what they’re really doing is allowing marijuana business to flourish for a limited period of time on a state-owned piece of property,” he said.

Mayor Dwight Worden reiterated the city’s code, which allows for medical use of marijuana and makes it illegal to engage in any marijuana-related commercial activity. He disagreed with Strang’s interpretation of commercial activity.

“I don’t think that’s what we had in mind when we adopted our code. We meant commercial sales and production are disallowed,” Worden said, mentioning that he would be open to revisiting the city’s code.

At the 22nd DAA board meeting, Director David Watson said the board should take the opportunity to apply the policy the subcommittee developed. He also mentioned that the majority of the county, as well as the fairground’s two neighboring cities — Del Mar and Solana Beach — voted in favor of the drug’s statewide legality.

“The people in favor have just as much right as anyone else,” he said.

Board President Steve Shewmaker said that the fairgrounds will be watching the event closely to ensure it complies with the interim policy.

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