Marijuana cultivation will not be on ballot

The City of Encinitas will not move forward with plans to allow residents to decide if marijuana cultivation should be allowed in the city.

The Encinitas City Council decided March 14 to instead pursue consideration for the main applicant’s land to be used to help the city meet state-mandated housing needs.

The council in October had decided four to one — with Council member Mark Muir dissenting — to take the issue of marijuana cultivation to the voters in the November 2018 election.

Bob Echter, of Dramm and Echter Inc., had proposed since February 2017 that a 40,000-square-foot portion of his 800,000-square-foot property be used for growing marijuana to help offset rising labor costs and a struggling agriculture industry. In November, Echter proposed his land be used for an "agrihood" -- a neighborhood built around a farm -- to help Encinitas meet state-mandated affordable housing numbers.

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a Housing Element, a required document that spells out how a city proposes to rework its zoning to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income people, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.

A majority of the Encinitas City Council expressed support for the idea of using Echter's land to help meet housing numbers in January, as did about a half-dozen public speakers.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said because Echter's property is now being discussed to help housing numbers, and because Echter was the main applicant pushing for cultivation on farm land, the issue of marijuana cultivation is off the table, at least for now.

"Given that the property owner who was requesting to grow marijuana commercially is now being considered for inclusion in the housing plan update, the City Council determined that at this time we won’t form a question to bring to the voters," the mayor said.

She added if there is a competing ballot measure put forward by a group that the city council believes is "too extreme," the council may then agendize discussion of an alternate proposal to take to the voters.

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