Encinitas bans marijuana sales; surprise throws election in limbo

Encinitas bans marijuana sales; surprise throws election in limbo
The Nov. 8 Encinitas City Council meeting began with a surprise announcement from Bob Echter, the owner of Dramm and Echter, the city’s last large-scale flower grower. He had been the driving force behind the push to allow commercial cultivation of cannabis.

ENCINITAS — Encinitas might not pursue an election that would ask voters whether to allow commercial cultivation of cannabis, after the flower grower who has been the driving force behind the effort proposed a housing plan on his property that would eliminate cannabis from the equation.

The Nov. 8 Encinitas City Council meeting began with a surprise announcement from Bob Echter, the owner of Dramm and Echter, the city’s last large-scale flower grower. 

Echter unveiled a proposal to create an “agrihood” on his property, a single-family or multi-family community built with a working farm as a focus. The plan would divide the 21-acre property into residential and agriculturally zoned parcels, and would take cannabis cultivation off the table.

Echter made the announcement in connection with the city’s discussion of its housing element update, offering the property up as a potential site for the city’s ongoing housing plan efforts. 

“It would allow for my family to continue farming while allowing a unique way for the city to meet its housing needs,” Echter said. 

But the announcement’s reverberations were felt during the last discussion item on the council’s five-hour agenda, an interim ban on commercial marijuana activities. 

Several council members pointed out that Echter’s reversal could eliminate the need for the city to place a measure on the 2018 ballot asking voters to decide the fate of commercial cultivation. 

Mayor Catherine Blakespear brought this up in connection with her attempt to carve out an exception for medical marijuana delivery in the proposed interim ban. 

Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath said that it was premature to say that the ballot measure was off the table until the agrihood concept is discussed further and is actually accepted by the city. 

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