Pot shops to go on ballot in 2014

ENCINITAS — The City Council voted unanimously to place a controversial initiative on the city’s 2014 general election ballot. 

Mayor Jerome Stocks was absent.

Voters will get to weigh in on a medical marijuana initiative two years after neighboring North County cities get to cast their votes.

In July the Del Mar and Solana Beach city councils voted to place similar initiatives on the upcoming ballot.

Backers of the ballot initiative, sponsored by Patient Care Association, turned in signatures in late July in an attempt to get the initiative on the November 2012 ballot. The intent is to treat people with serious medical issues according to supporters.

The County Registrar of Voters certified the signatures on Aug. 8, just two days before the deadline for this year’s ballot.

City Attorney Glenn Sabine told council members that voting to put the measure on the 2014 ballot would serve as a “wait and see” approach as Encinitas can see what happens with the neighboring cities initiatives.

Sabine told the council that it has the option to file an action to remove it from the ballot or file a post-election challenge seeking a judicial determination of validity of the initiative.

More than a dozen speakers addressed the council on the controversial topic. The majority was opposed to the initiative, but several focused on the medical uses of marijuana.

Lance Rogers, a longtime resident said he supported the initiative. “We’re talking about marijuana as medicine, not for recreational use,” he said. As a civil rights attorney, he said he disagreed with the “wait and see” approach. “I agree it’s changing, but the will of the people of California is clear. Cities have the ability to regulate dispensaries.”

Physician Bob Blake said medical marijuana patients needed a convenient and safe place to obtain their medicine, rather than driving long distances to a dispensary or “wait for their connection to show up in some dark alley.”

Judy Strang, a resident who has been active in drug prevention disagreed. She said she is a compassionate person who is appalled by the profit motive of storefront “pot shops.” “There’s money to be earned here and that’s what it’s about,” she said. “This is a very misguided initiative.”

Nancy Logan, a 25-year resident said it was clear that legal access to pot was not welcome in the city. “Drugs that aid in illness are dispensed in a pharmacy, not in a marijuana dispensary,” she said.

“I don’t want it in my city and I don’t want it in my sister cities,” Kathleen Mackay said.

“The voters need to make their case,” Councilman James Bond said.

Many in attendance at the meeting were certain that residents would not approve the initiative. “I believe when we wait and see, what we will see is that dispensaries will not be allowed,” Evelyn Hogan said.

The initiative would limit storefront dispensaries to commercial and industrial areas and levy a 2.5 percent tax on retail transactions. It also would establish security measures and hours of operation and require licensing by existing city departments.

“I know there’s a lot of complexity surrounding the legalities of medical marijuana,” Sabine told the council. State and federal law conflict over medical marijuana. “Under the existing law there are no guarantees,” he said.



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