Medical marijuana voted down in Encinitas


Voters on Tuesday rejected Measure F, an initiative that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries in Encinitas.

With 13,808 votes counted Wednesday morning, just over 56 percent turned down Measure F. A similar ballot initiative in La Mesa failed by about the same margin.

“There remains much misinformation about medical marijuana that causes people to fear it unnecessarily, and qualified patients are the ones who suffer because of the resulting lack of safe access near their homes,” said James Schmachtenberger, who wrote the measure, in a statement.

The group Citizens for Patients Rights spent $77,926 supporting the Encinitas and La Mesa campaigns. An opposition group didn’t raise money, but drug-free youth organizations and some parents actively campaigned against it.

“We are thrilled with the Measure F election results,” said Encinitas resident Nancy Logan in an email. “The voters have validated the truth that marijuana storefronts have no place in Encinitas.”

Logan and those in opposition said the measure would have made Encinitas a destination for those seeking medical marijuana, because other cities in North County don’t permit dispensaries. And they argued courier services deliver medical marijuana throughout the county, so dispensaries aren’t necessary.

Schmachtenberger had countered that courier services are unreliable and unsafe.

“The city has no way of tracking these organizations,” he said in a letter that ran in last week’s edition of the Encinitas Advocate. “We don’t know who is driving our neighborhoods in unmarked vehicles with unknown quantities of marijuana and cash, or whether they are following state law.”

The Encinitas City Council voted unanimously to take a stand against the measure in September. At that time, Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said even medical marijuana backers could find fault with the measure, because a judge would probably have to rule on the legality of a tax provision in the ordinance.

Measure F proposed to place an additional 2.5 percent retail tax on medical marijuana, which would have flowed into the city’s general fund. But according to state law, local governments may add only up to 1 percent in taxes.

According to a report from the city attorney, the 2.5 percent tax could violate that rule, so the Board of Equalization might have ceased collecting taxes in the city. Under that scenario, city staff would have to take over the tax collecting.

The initiative would have allowed dispensaries in industrial and commercial zones as long as they remained 1,000 feet from each other and 600 feet from schools.

Those in favor of the measure collected signatures in 2012, just missing the deadline to place it on the ballot that year. The initiative then went in front of the council, which had the option of adopting the measure or sending it to a public vote. Council members chose the latter to see whether similar measures passed in Del Mar and Solana Beach. Voters rejected those, too.

While measures to permit dispensaries failed on Tuesday, marijuana legalization initiatives passed in Alaska, Washington D.C. and Oregon.

Last year, the federal Justice Department said it won’t challenge state and local jurisdictions with medical and recreational marijuana laws if they pass strong regulations in line with eight enforcement priorities, including preventing minors from obtaining the drug and stopping cultivation on public land.

The ballots counted as of Wednesday morning represented 80 to 85 percent of those cast. Some provisional and mail ballots remain to be counted, according to the Registrar of Voters Office.