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San Marcos poised to ban commercial marijuana cultivation, sales

SAN MARCOS — San Marcos is poised to become the latest North County city to ban growing, processing or selling cannabis outright in advance of Proposition 64 taking effect on Jan. 1.

Voters in 2016 approved the legalization of recreational marijuana and a state licensing and taxation system for the product as part of Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The new laws, however, defer to cities on questions of whether to allow commercial cannabis activities, which has sent a number of jurisdictions scrambling to craft new rules before the Jan. 1 deadline.

The San Marcos City Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 24 on the first reading of an ordinance that would ban all commercial cannabis activities and would limit indoor cultivation to the limits outlined in Pro. 64, six per residence. The ordinance would also prohibit people from smoking cannabis in places where cigarette smoking is banned in the city.

The city’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended the council adopt the ordinance at its Oct. 9 meeting.

San Marcos has been working on an ordinance for nearly a year, after the council adopted an interim ban Oct. 25, 2016, in advance of the November election. They have extended the prohibition several times to allow staff to craft a permanent set of restrictions, which are now up for approval at the Oct. 24 meeting.

In its staff report, the city cites the crime associated with dispensaries, nuisances reported with cannabis grows and environmental damage associated with pesticide and herbicide use as reasons for moving forward with the ban.

The report cites an incident in April where employees at an unlicensed dispensary in San Marcos were robbed at gunpoint. The robbery was reported by a witness outside of the dispensary who reported suspicious activity at the dispensary, rather than by the employees of the dispensary, the staff report states.

“The city has a compelling interest in protecting and preserving the health, safety and welfare of the community and preventing adverse impacts that cannabis operations, uses and activities may have on nearby properties and residents, resulting in the proposed ordinance,” the staff report states.

If the city passes the first reading of the ordinance, the ordinance would take effect 30 days after a second reading of the ordinance, which could come as soon as the council’s Nov. 14 meeting.

Voters in Vista and Encinitas will have an opportunity to weigh in on the future of cannabis in their city. In Vista, proponents collected enough signatures to place an item on the November 2018 ballot on whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Encinitas elected officials voted last week to place an item on the same ballot on whether to allow commercial cultivation, processing and delivery of cannabis in the city.