Council to study pot cultivation in Encinitas

Proponents and opponents of marijuana came head-to-head Feb. 15 at the city council meeting as the council tried to figure out how to move forward after the passing of Prop. 64.

After a nearly two-hour discussion and a 4-1 vote — with Council member Mark Muir dissenting — the council approved a subcommittee focusing on marijuana to work with staff to bring back additional information on limited cultivation in Encinitas and consider a scientific survey. The subcommittee will provide recommendations for questions to be asked in the survey.

The subcommittee consists of Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Council member Joe Mosca, who was appointed at the meeting.

Last October, the city council opposed Prop. 64, and in 2014 Encinitas residents rejected Measure F, an initiative which would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

City Attorney Glenn Sabine at the Feb. 15 meeting advised if a city does not take action regarding non-medical marijuana, the state can issue a license for a business in a city without the city’s input.

About 15 residents voiced their approvals and objections for cannabis dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing of byproducts in Encinitas.

Those who did not advocate for marijuana said they believe its use, growth and sale in the city could create more crime and problems for children.

Nancy Logan, who works with the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth, encouraged the ban of marijuana in the city.

She referenced material from a Colorado superintendent indicating more use of the substance in high schools since it was legalized.

“Our city is too charming to have marijuana,” she said.

However, a majority of residents who spoke appeared to support marijuana one way or another in Encinitas.

A group of local farmers contested growing the plant could help their businesses flourish.

Daron Joffe, a local farmer at Coastal Roots Farm, said he believed marijuana “could help save and renew agricultural heritage in the city.”

However, he said he has no plans to grow cannabis on his land.

Peggy Walker, a youth prevention educator, said she wishes the discussion was “about growing flowers and not marijuana.”

She said she believes storefronts would entice youth to try marijuana.

“I feel like we’re in a fight for our kids’ brains’ futures,” she said.

Kranz later said he believes children will be exposed to marijuana in their lives and parents should instead focus on teaching their children about the potential dangers of the substance.

“I think the world is coming at kids really quick and what we need to focus on is kids making good choices,” he said. “Prop. 64 is about the adult use of marijuana.”

He said Encinitas should look at other cities that have cultivation ordinances to potentially model theirs after.

Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath, who put a survey out to residents over the weekend regarding marijuana, said 67 percent of those who answered the question were in support of storefronts. Many residents also indicated in the survey that they believe marijuana should be regulated and taxed heavily, she said.

About 600 people took her survey, but it had below-average response rates from the 35 and under age group, she said.

“My survey over-represents older residents and under-represents younger ones,” she said.

Boerner Horvath was met with audience applause when she said the council should consider the will of the people. According to voter records, 65 percent of people in Encinitas voted in favor of Prop. 64, she said.

“I think we owe it to the 65 percent of people in Encinitas to do some surveying to see what they really want,” she said, supporting a motion for further scientific surveying.

She also said the city should consider what “safe zones” are defined as, adding that parks, beaches and instances when children are present should be added. Currently, safe zones only cover areas outside 1,000 feet from schools.

Mosca urged a “slow and measured” approach to the issue.

He pushed for further dialogue with residents.

“I think it’s our job as the local city council to determine how Prop. 64 fits into our community,” he said. “I think we need as much public input as possible.”

Council member Mark Muir, a former fire chief, said he had concerns about public safety and wanted input from the sheriff’s department.

He added he did not want the city to become known for its marijuana plants.

“I don’t want to replace the poinsettia with a cannabis plant,” he said.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she did not like the idea of dispensaries in the city.

“From my perspective, especially currently, I don’t think dispensaries add to the city,” she said. “I’m not interested in looking at how to have storefronts in the city. That wouldn’t add in a positive way to what we have in Encinitas.”

Countywide, the city of San Diego is the only city to allow the sale of recreational marijuana, Blakespear said. She added the legal sales only occur at 15 locations where medical marijuana is sold, but acknowledged a black market likely coexisting.

No cities have allowed cultivation, she added. She said she felt torn about the cultivation issue in Encinitas because she supports the local farmers.

“I don’t want all our agricultural properties to go to marijuana,” she said. “I would like to be able to limit that in some way.”

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