Tobacco and marijuana smoking an issue at Del Mar Racetrack concerts

By Kathy Day

Battles over smoking at the fairgrounds have moved to the racetrack where concertgoers have been lighting up – and not just tobacco.

Joe Harper, president and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, beat several people to the punch on the issue on Aug. 14. They had come to the 22nd Agricultural District’s directors meeting to tell stories about what they say has been happening at the post-race concerts.

“Smoking is an issue, smoking marijuana is an issue – and that’s against the law,” said Dean Scott, one of a group of regular attendees who pushed the fair board to declare the venue a non-smoking one — but to exempt the actual racetrack from the rules. However, the rules do apply to the concert series.

But before Scott, who in June volunteered to serve on the board’s non-smoking subcommittee, and the others had their say near the end of the meeting, Harper had already told the board that they thoroughbred club staff needed to work on the matter.

He said they are increasing signage, announcing the rules from the stage and have reminded the 121 security staffers – that includes private Elite security as well as sheriff’s deputies – that they need to increase enforcement.

While the speakers expressed their thanks that Harper was paying attention to the matter, they still raised the issue.

Kathy Lippitt, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, and Judy Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, both were also critical of the bands.

Lippitt said they “encourage debauchery” and that the events violate the trust of parents who believe their children are attending a smoke-free event.

Strang told the directors there were “egregious activities … beyond the bad language.” She said she couldn’t even read some of the complaints to the board because of the details.

Another woman, Evelyn Hogan, whose 18-year-old son recently went to a concert, told the board he had to come home early because he has asthma and was affected by all of the smoke.

“You need to train security better and have more security,” she said, adding that when her son complained to the staff about the smoke, “he was told they had bigger problems.”

Strang encouraged the directors to set up a meeting of the non-smoking committee, but they did not respond.