ENCINITAS — Encinitas voters won’t vote on whether to allow cannabis cultivation or deliveries on the November ballot — at least for now, as the City Council has decided not to pursue a ballot measure.
The City Council at the end of its March 14 meeting unanimously agreed with Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s suggestion to put the ballot measure on hiatus because the grower who had been the driving force behind the effort had abandoned his plans to grow cannabis on his property.
“Given that the property owner who was requesting to grow marijuana commercially is now being considered for inclusion in the housing plan update, the City Council determined that at this time we won’t form a question to bring to the voters,” Blakespear said in a statement. “The only debated issue in Encinitas was whether to allow commercial growing of marijuana in the city, and we were considering it because one local grower was requesting it. That request is no longer on the table.”
Bob Echter originally wanted the council’s permission to grow cannabis on a small portion of his farm, Dramm & Echter, in order to keep the flower grower financially viable. He reversed course last year after the Council in October opted to put the question of commercial cultivation to voters on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot.
The City Council voted to ban all cannabis activities in the interim.
Instead, Echter is pursuing a so-called “agrihood,” a community that blends housing and agriculture, on the land, and the council has included it in its latest iteration of the draft housing element.
Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, who agreed with Blakespear, said that the League of Cities in an update said that the state was “lagging” in its roll-out of cannabis regulations.
“It’s also good to let things at the state level sort itself out for a little bit longer before any action is taken,” Boerner Horvath said.
Several supporters of cannabis-related activities who were active in last year’s debate in Encinitas told reporters they were not surprised by the city’s decision, given Echter’s change of heart.
The Association of Cannabis Professionals in 2017 had started collecting signatures for its own ballot measure in Encinitas to legalize all cannabis related activities, but withdrew it to allow the city to pursue its ordinance.
Dallin Young, the group’s executive director, said that he was disappointed when the city had decided to only pursue deliveries and cultivation, and was actually pleased the city was not pursuing it, because it means that another group could pursue a more comprehensive ballot measure.
“Sometimes something is better than nothing, but I think in this case I would have rather than have sent nothing (to voters) than that,” Young said. “I don’t think it was suitable for what we were looking for.”
When asked if his organization would revive its efforts, Young said they would know in “a few weeks.”
“I wouldn’t rule out anything as of now,” Young said.
Susana Vanzie-Canton, the office manager of Rancho Santa Fe-based Rancho Tissue Technologies, was one of dozens of speakers who spoke in support of Echter at city meetings leading up to last October’s council meeting.
She said she wasn’t surprised by the city’s decision, but was happy that it appears that the Association of Cannabis Professionals appears to be moving forward with its ballot measure.
“I am happy to hear that,” said Vanzie-Canton, whose lab grows, among other things, cloned baby cannabis plants for research purposes.
Blakespear, anticipating a revival of the previous independent ballot measure, said the city’s decision does not preclude it from revisiting a ballot measure in that event.
“If it turns out that there is a competing ballot measure put forward by one group or another that the City Council thinks is too extreme, we could then decide to agendize discussion of an alternate proposal to take to the voters,” Blakespear said. “We would have to evaluate any proposal as a group.”
Judi Strang, of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth, said that from a global perspective, California already produces an excessive amount of cannabis.
“So perhaps the Encinitas City Council, and other cities as well, felt that it should not be in the business of enabling the cultivation of a product that is contributing to such a dissolute situation,” Strang said.