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Encinitas council comes out against medical marijuana initiative

The City Council voted unanimously Sept. 10 to take a stance against Measure F, an initiative on the November ballot that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Encinitas.

Councilman Mark Muir, who requested the agenda item, previously stated the council should weigh in one way or the other.

At the Sept. 10 meeting Muir said he’s sympathetic toward those patients who need medical marijuana, but added he’s confident they can obtain it elsewhere.

“The three things I’m concerned about are the impacts to children, the businesses and the neighborhoods,” Muir said.

Similar to Muir’s stance, two public speakers said patients can always turn to medical marijuana delivery services. But resident Lance Rodgers, an attorney specializing in cannabis law, said those courier businesses are often unreliable.

Rodgers added there presently “isn’t a good answer” for patients in chronic pain looking for steady access.

James Schmachtenberger, a resident who signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure F, said regulating medical marijuana is safer than the black market.

“In a regulated environment, you’re not going have all the issues with violence and petty theft that you are on a street corner behind a 7-Eleven,” Schmachtenberger said.

He also stated the initiative would bring in tax revenue. Although he’s supporting Measure F, Schmachtenberger asked that the city not take a position.

“I believe your influence will sway voters and they won’t take the time to understand it on their own,” Schmachtenberger said.

Those in favor of the initiative collected signatures in 2012. However, they just missed the deadline to place it on the ballot that year.

The council at that time had the choice of adopting the measure or putting it to a public vote. It opted for the latter to see how medical marijuana measures fared in Del Mar and Solana Beach. Ultimately, voters rejected them.

Measure F proposes to place an additional 2.5 percent retail tax on medical marijuana, which would be allocated to the city’s general fund.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said a judge would likely have to rule on the legality of that tax. State law holds that local governments can add up to 1 percent in taxes.

Shaffer added it’s also problematic that Measure F requires the city to grant or deny dispensary permits within only 15 days.

“Even if you support medicinal cannabis access, this particular ordinance has significant flaws in it,” she said.

The initiative would allow dispensaries in industrial and commercial zones. But they would have to be at least 1,000 feet from each other and 600 feet from schools.

Sales are prohibited to those under the age of 18, except if the minor is a qualified patient accompanied by a guardian. It would also forbid medical marijuana evaluations on site and cannabis from being visible from a store exterior.

Resident Nancy Logan said the initiative would make the city a destination for those seeking marijuana, because other North County cities don’t allow dispensaries.

Similarly, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz expressed worry over traffic, adding Measure F isn’t a good fit for the community.

Others raised concerns about youth access.

Mayoral candidate Alex Fidel, a supporter of Measure F, said it doesn’t make sense that liquor stores and fast-food restaurants are permitted in the city, but not dispensaries.

California allows medical marijuana under Proposition 215, an initiative voters approved in 1996. It’s still illegal under federal law, though.

However, last year the federal Justice Department stated it won’t challenge state and local jurisdictions with medical and recreational marijuana laws if they create strong regulations in line with eight enforcement priorities.

Those include preventing minors from obtaining the drug, stopping gangs from drug trafficking and forbidding cultivation on public land.

City attorney Glenn Sabine stated in an impartial analysis on Measure F that a legal question exists as to whether the city would be in violation of federal law by issuing dispensary permits.

Sabine said during the meeting that the city can’t expend resources to oppose the measure, but it’s OK to state formal opposition for the record.


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