Solana Beach residents to vote on marijuana ordinance

Solana Beach residents will decide if marijuana retailers, cultivation and delivery should be allowed in the city.

The Solana Beach City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 28 to put the issue to a vote in the 2020 election, after a group called the Alliance for Safe Access successfully gathered enough signatures to have their petition be placed on the ballot. The Alliance for Safe Access needed to gather at least 860 signatures. More than 1,000 were verified by the city and county registrar, according to City Clerk Angela Ivey.

The council also agreed to have city staff research how the proposed ordinance would impact the city.

The initiative calls for no more than two marijuana dispensaries in the city and only in non-residential zones. The dispensaries must adhere to all applicable state and local licenses and permits necessary for operation. Cultivation and delivery would be permitted in all zones, consistent with state law.

Joshua Clark, who originally submitted the intent to petition in March, said in a statement submitted to the city that his goal was to "lawfully allow our residents access to cannabis if they desire."

"Residents should not be forced to acquire a lawful product from illegal operators with unsafe and untested products, that do not adhere to any regulations of potential age restrictions," Clark wrote in his statement.

About a half dozen speakers on Nov. 28 opposed the petition and urged the city council to instead opt to take 30 days to have staff order a report on the impacts of the proposed ordinance.

Many argued allowing marijuana in the city would affect amenities such as public safety, property values and tourism.

Kelly McCormick, a local mother who runs a youth program, said she believes the initiative puts young people and their health, as well as other residents and their businesses, at risk.

She said storefronts sell marijuana-infused treats, like gummy bears, brownies and "Pot-Tarts," to cater to young people.

"It's an over-reach by an industry hoping to cash in by peddling a federally illegal, psychoactive drug," McCormick said of the ordinance.

Megan Roth, a local high school senior and participant of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth, said she and her peers mentor elementary school and middle school students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

"Every day, I see the temptation that kids face to use drugs, like marijuana, because they think it is safe and harmless," she said. "Our job to educate students will be significantly harder if there are commercial marijuana businesses in Solana Beach. We are more vulnerable here because the city is so small."

Council member Lesa Heebner motioned to allow residents to vote on the matter but asked that staff come back with a study or report that would discuss the impact to the community.

Mayor David Zito said the city is committed to finding out how marijuana retailers would affect the city, but a study should be done in 2020, rather than within the next 30 days, to correlate with the election and provide the most up-to-date data.

"One of the downsides of doing that now is I can guarantee you if we were to order the report now and wait the 30 days, we're still going to be faced with the same decision and then when the election time comes around, the opponents or the proponents of the initiative will say is, 'Your report's two years old. The data's out of date,'" he said.

Deputy Mayor Jewel Edson did not believe the community would support the ordinance but said it should go to a vote of the people anyway. She noted social media postings where residents said they were misled into signing the petition.

According to a Sept. 11 news article by 10News — ABC San Diego KGTV, some signed the document because they were led to believe it would prohibit marijuana dispensaries from being built within 600 feet of public schools. Solana Beach, however, does not currently allow dispensaries anywhere in the city.

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