Del Mar Council will not send letter opposing marijuana event

The Del Mar City Council on Oct. 29 voted against sending a letter opposing a marijuana festival to the fair board.

The council voted 3 to 2 to not send council member Terry Sinnott's letter opposing the Good Life Festival, slated for April 20, to the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors (DAA).

As drafted, Sinnott's letter would have opposed the festival, stating that the City of Del Mar "specifically prohibits all commercial-related cannabis businesses" and the DAA's own interim event policy on cannabis says it would "not permit, allow, encourage promote or solicit the possession or use of" controlled substances, including marijuana, on the premises.

In the letter, Sinnott also questioned if the event was truly "educational," as proposed. He stated the DAA would also invite public health officials to speak on the dangers of marijuana if it were a true educational event.

He also suggested the fairgrounds is a "family-friendly venue" and such an event would "tarnish" that brand.

The majority of the council members on Oct. 29 believed the city's policy on marijuana — which was passed in January 2016 and prohibits the sale, cultivation and manufacturing of both recreational and medical cannabis — sends a mixed message to the fair board about what kinds of events the city supports or opposes.

"I feel like we're missing an important step in addressing this important issue," said council member Ellie Haviland. "Are we opposed to all cannabis events or are we just opposed to this Good Life Festival because of the way it's set up?"

Mayor Dwight Worden added issues like traffic and the number of attendees also need to be addressed.

Council member Dave Druker said if the fair board approves the event, the city should implement a strong traffic management system.

He said similar events in downtown Seattle have caused gridlocked traffic.

"It will probably make Opening Day look like a cake walk," Druker said.

Worden said while he cannot support a letter opposing the festival at this time, he would want to revisit drafting such an opposition if the event causes community problems.

Sinnott and Sherryl Parks were the only council members who believed the letter should be sent.

Sinnott argued he believed the Good Life Festival leaned more toward being promotional than educational.

"The board has to think carefully about what they’re really doing, not the titles," he said. "I’m concerned what they’re really doing is allowing marijuana businesses to flourish for a little bit of time on a state-owned property."

Parks said the fair board might "forgive" the council for having a vague policy because there's an overall ambiguity about marijuana everywhere. She added the city should also keep an ongoing study on safety issues in regard to marijuana.

“We have to keep abreast of what’s happening with this," she said. "It’s not going to go away.”

The fair board's discussion on the festival is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14. The agenda for that meeting will be confirmed Nov. 2 at https://bit.ly/2ACCEu5, according to a board staffer.

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