Del Mar fair board endorses medical pot event policy


Proponents of medical marijuana have about 16 months to prove they can hold a responsible educational event without allowing the drug’s possession and use at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Despite opposition from members of the public, the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors voted 5-3 Tuesday, Aug. 14, to approve such events on a trial basis through the end of 2020.

Now, the board overseeing the fairgrounds bans any activity involving cannabis, the scientific name recognized by the state as the legal term for the plant substance commonly known by the slang terms “marijuana” and “pot.”

The majority of the board members agreed with the recommendation of colleague Pierre Sleiman to adopt a more liberal stance toward cannabis-related events in keeping with state and federal policies relaxing legal restrictions on medicinal as well as recreational marijuana.

In essence, board Director David Watson said, allowing educational activities recognizes the proponents right to exercise free speech while the fairgrounds continues to maintain legal constraints.

Opponents, however, contended such events would encourage the acceptance of what they view as an injurious drug and that the events would turn into intoxicated celebrations.

“This is so unfortunate,” said Kelly McCormick, a Carlsbad resident. “When a major and well-respected institution like the Del Mar Fairgrounds joins in the pot parade, it’s a major blow for parents and another big step for the normalization of pot use. It’s sending a message to our youth that pot use is no big deal.”

Executive Director Judi Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said the fairgrounds has had a history of being lax in enforcing its restrictions on the use of illicit marijuana and tobacco.

Both she and board members opposing the policy shift cited a previous fairgrounds health-oriented event that they contend turned into a cannabis promotion.

“It started out with medi-pot, but pretty soon it took on a whole different tone,” said Strang in an interview following the meeting.

She said the organizers took “a wink and a nod” approach to restrictions, which were not completely enforced.

In voting for the policy, board President Steve Shewmaker said he was willing to support the recommendation because the time limitation ensured it would be returned to the board for review.

Directors Lee Haydu, Russ Penniman and Lisa Barrett cast the dissenting votes.