City council approves ban on marijuana

The Encinitas City Council officially sealed marijuana’s fate in the city — at least temporarily — at a Wednesday, Nov. 8 meeting.

The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance banning all commercial marijuana-related activities and uses, to the extent of California law. The decision essentially maintains the city’s current status quo until the general election, when voters may decide if cultivation and manufacturing should be allowed in Encinitas.

According to the ordinance, medical marijuana would continue to be regulated to the extent authorized by state law. People should also not possess, smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana-related products in public places or in buildings owned, leased or occupied by the city. Personal outdoor cultivation would be prohibited.

Since the passing of Prop. 64 — which passed in Encinitas by 65 percent and legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California in November 2016 — the Encinitas City Council has grappled with how to regulate marijuana.

Last month, the council considered allowing manufacturing and cultivation on agricultural zones to help farmers, but ultimately decided 4-1, with Council member Mark Muir dissenting, to put the issue to the voters in the November 2018 election.

But Bob Echter, of Dramm and Echter Inc., who fought for marijuana cultivation on part of his land since February, announced earlier in Wednesday’s meeting that he’d like his property to instead be considered for an “agrihood,” or neighborhood built around a farm, to help the city meet its state-mandated housing numbers and to support his business. If Echter’s property is zoned for housing, his proposal for cultivation would be taken off the table. Mayor Catherine Blakespear said if that were the case, the council would revisit the marijuana cultivation issue later to see if the issue should still go to the ballot.

After Council member Mark Muir moved to pass Wednesday’s ordinance, which banned all marijuana activities outright, with Council member Joe Mosca seconding, Blakespear said the council should revisit the language later to consider allowing medical marijuana delivery systems. But the other council members disagreed with her, with Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath sharing concerns about delivery proximities to schools.

At past city council and AUMA subcommittee meetings, proponents and opponents have spent hours sharing ideas about how marijuana should be handled in Encinitas. Those in favor of cultivation said they wanted to support farmers, like Echter. They have also said they thought the issue of cultivation was already decided as part of Prop. 64. Opponents, however, have urged the council to not allow marijuana in the city to prevent access for children, crime, more DUIs and possible negative effects on property values.

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