Proponents, opponents debate pot cultivation

After a divided meeting in February when council members and residents couldn’t agree on marijuana’s place in Encinitas following the statewide passing of Prop. 64, the city held its first subcommittee meeting on the subject at City Hall on April 12.

More than 50 residents attended the nearly three-hour meeting — led by subcommittee members Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Council member Joe Mosca — to discuss the ideas of limited cultivation, delivery and regulations on consumption of edibles in public places. The group is also planning a scientific survey.

The subcommittee was approved Feb. 15 at a council meeting when proponents and opponents of marijuana came head-to-head to figure out how to move forward after the passing of Prop. 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California.

No decision was made on the subcommittee’s part at the April 12 meeting. Instead, they heard from more than 20 attendees.

Many people in attendance appeared to support the city allowing farmers to grow on their land to aid their businesses.

Bob Echter, of Dramm & Echter Inc. in Encinitas, said he would like to grow on a small portion of his 800,000-square-foot agricultural property to offset threats to the farming industry.

“The viability of commercial agriculture in Encinitas is at risk,” he said, referring to rising minimum wage and scarcity of water.

Jim Farley, president and CEO of the Leichtag Foundation, said he supported Echter’s endeavor to spark interest in “growing young farmers” and “advance education in chemistry, biology and computer sciences.”

Mosca questioned if there could be any possible banking regulations for businesses and growers.

Erik Williams, a former political consultant who is now a partner at cannabis consulting company Will and Way, believed there would be options for growers.

“I fully expect — once we have state laws in place — that there will be ways for banking solutions in other states to come to California,” he said, adding that proper security measures would be set in place at Dramm & Echter.

Williams, who has studied the effects of marijuana in other states, later encouraged the city to look at the possibility of an election, which could be “more accurate” than a survey.

Heather May, who works at a tissue culture lab in Rancho Santa Fe that produces plants like vegetables and succulents, said she would like to open a similar lab in Encinitas, but for marijuana plant clones.

“We feel that what we could bring in Encinitas is something similar to the lab in Rancho Santa Fe,” she said, adding that the lab would be zoned agricultural. “But it would be limited to cannabis and we would only sell it to other growers who are licensed.”

Gregg Marte, of Oceanside, who owns San Diego-based Spectre Distribution, pushed for responsible distribution that he believed could alleviate the city of problems stemming from marijuana, such as proper identification checks.

But others weren’t so keen on the idea of marijuana growing in Encinitas.

Judi Strang of the San Diego Alliance for Drug Free Youth voiced concerns about how cultivation would affect young people.

Katie Poponyak, a mental health counselor, also cited people she knew who moved from marijuana to harder drugs.

“Is marijuana a gateway drug?” she questioned. “I don’t now. But I’ll tell you these parents have had to spend thousands of dollars on recovery and probably wish their kids never smoked marijuana.”

Resident Carol Green worried about how the allowance of cannabis would make the city look.

“We don’t want to create a society where we have a pot leaf on our city rather than a poinsettia,” she said.

Kranz assured the crowd that would never happen and credited the poinsettia’s history in the city.

Mosca and Kranz said they will look at drafting a report to bring back to the city council but expect to hold at least one more meeting before such a draft is written. A date for the next meeting has not yet been set.

“What we’re trying to do here is come up with a solution that’s sensitive to both sides and, most importantly, addresses public safety issues,” Kranz said.

Last October, the city council opposed Prop. 64, and in 2014 Encinitas residents rejected Measure F, an initiative that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Sixty-five percent of voters in Encinitas supported Prop. 64 in the November election.

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.

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