A local group is one step closer to getting that would let voters decide if Encinitas should allow medical marijuana dispensaries.
Citizens for Patient Rights, the group behind the effort, submitted 5,900 Encinitas voter signatures to the City Clerk on July 19—about 2,000 signatures more than required to qualify the item for a public vote.
But the group still has a few big hurdles to clear in a very short timeline, which means the measure may not make it onto the ballot.
Before the ballot measure can move forward, the Encinitas City Council must consider the item. Due to summer recess, the next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15, which is five days after the deadline for submitting all ballot paperwork to the San Diego County Elections Office.
Because of that time crunch, group organizers are asking the city to add a meeting back into the calendar on Aug. 8.
“During the last Council meeting I made a formal request for a special session,” said James Schmachtenberger, president of the Patient Care Association, a medical cannabis trade association that’s supporting the effort. “We are still hopeful that Council will give voters a chance to have a voice on this topic in the upcoming election.”
Schmachtenberger has also launched an online petition asking Encinitas residents to sign it if they want City Council to call a special session on Aug. 8. Schmachtenberger plans to submit those signatures to the city within the next few weeks.
But there's another possible snag in the timeline: Before City Council can consider the item, the county Elections Office must certify all those voter signatures—which it legally has 30 days to do, though Schmachtenberger said based on his experience, it usually only takes about a week to complete the task.
“We are also exploring the option of possible deadline extensions,” Schmachtenberger added.
If the city does decide to call a special session, critics of the ballot measure stand ready to voice their opposition.
“Marijuana dispensaries are being shut down by the DEA, yet the pro-pot lobby continues to put their illegal aspirations above the health and safety of our communities and young people," said Roy Gage, a member of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, a local group opposed to legalizing medical marijuana.
Gage said his group also has concerns over the fact that marijuana is still federally illegal—and that young healthy people can falsely claim they need marijuana to get their hands on the drug.
"In recent years we saw a proliferation of illegal pot shops that opened up without any permits all over San Diego County," Gage said. "We sat outside these pot shops to see who their customers were. The majority were male and young, and perfectly healthy looking. And our school officials began expressing concerns of pot showing up on campus in pot shop labeled ‘medicine’ vials."
Schmachtenberger said he pulled demographic reports from medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego and found that the main demographic were people ages 45 to 65.
“You can’t visually assess someone and get a clear indication of their health without ever seeing their medical record,” Schmachtenberger said.
Schmachtenberger’s group is pushing similar initiatives in: , where signatures are still being gathered; and Solana Beach, both cities where councils are expected to vote on the item within the next couple weeks; and Del Mar, which has agreed to put the measure on the ballot.
If the ballot measure were to pass in the November election, Encinitas would be allowed to collect a 2.5 percent supplemental sales tax from all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Based on sales in other cities, that’ll likely boost the city’s coffers by at least $230,000 per year, Schmachtenberger said.
According to the proposed ordinance, medical marijuana dispensaries would only be allowed in retail and industrial zones, with a 600-foot buffer from schools and playgrounds—plus a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries.
Gage said the proposed ordinance doesn’t address key topics, like impacts to parking or outline enforcement tools if a shop owner doesn’t follow the rules.
Schmachtenberger said some parts of the proposed ordinance will either fall under existing city code or the city will have the option to decide how to regulate portions, just so long as it’s not a direct conflict to what voters approved.
To view a full version of the proposed ordinance, see the PDF attached.
Encinitas Patch is following this story and will keep you posted on developments.