Solana Beach residents call for council opposition to cannabis ballot measure

City Hall
Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

Several local residents urged Solana Beach City Council members to publicly oppose a November ballot measure that would allow commercial cannabis businesses in the city, including up to two cannabis dispensaries, as well as cannabis delivery and cultivation.

“The ballot measure takes away the ability to make local land decisions by those elected to do so,” Judi Strang, of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said during the online council meeting on Wednesday, June 24.

She and other public speakers asked council members to write the official ballot argument against the initiative, which is due to the city clerk on Aug. 12. It will be distributed to voters before the Nov. 3 election, along with an argument in support by the proponents.

“It would send a clear message that the city of Solana Beach is not in the business of normalizing or commercializing marijuana,” said Rebecca Rapp, another public speaker.

Solana Beach voters sent a similar message in 2012, when approximately 62% of them rejected a citywide ballot measure that would have allowed medical cannabis dispensaries.

“I imagine that the sentiment has not changed very much,” City Councilwoman Kelly Harless said.

In 2016, about 61% of voters in Solana Beach approved Proposition 64, the statewide ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis, but left it up to cities to determine whether they wanted to allow cannabis businesses within their borders. In Solana Beach, they have been prohibited.

Crafting a council-led argument against the ballot measure would require a public meeting, according to the city attorney. Due to logistical constraints, including council’s upcoming summer recess and laws against using city resources for political campaigns, council members instead favored the possibility of signing onto an argument against the initiative written by someone outside the city government.

If approved this November, the ballot measure would enact an ordinance that requires potential cannabis business operators to submit applications with the city, which will grade them and award permits based on criteria specified in the ordinance. Those cannabis businesses, which also need the necessary permits from the state, would have to be located at least 600 feet from public schools.

Dispensaries will be allowed to open in nonresidential zones in Solana Beach, and must be at least 600 feet from public schools.

Tax revenue from cannabis business would go toward police, fire personnel and other costs of enforcing the terms of the ordinance.

The proposed law would also require Solana Beach cannabis businesses to have onsite security, security camera footage and alarm systems that are monitored by a licensed security company.

City Councilman David Zito said the ballot measure would circumvent any input from council members and other city officials over the terms of the ordinance.

“Regardless of someone’s thoughts on having these types of facilities in the city of Solana Beach, you just can’t support it in general because of that constraint,” he said. “It takes all local control out of the local government’s ability to actually provide for a reasonable level of management and security in your city.”

Josh Clark, who petitioned on behalf of Alliance for Safe Access to put the measure on the Solana Beach ballot, said in a written statement to the city two years ago that the measure would help cut down on the illegal drug trade.

“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 or potential age restrictions,” he said. “We have tried to draft an initiative in a manner that hopefully will be acceptable to the city.”