The Encinitas City Council tackled marijuana regulations this week, considering whether the city should allow stores to sell weed, permit nurseries to grow it, and allow manufacturing of marijuana by-products, such as cannabis oils, creams, edibles or hash products.
One well-respected local grower, Bob Echter, whose company Dramm & Echter (shown above) grows and sells gerbera daisies and other flowers, expressed his desire at the City Council to transform a portion of his flower-growing greenhouse business into marijuana cultivation. Looking at the picture above, it’s clear that the plants being grown inside the greenhouses are entirely obscured from view. I expect that if we allow marijuana to be grown here, it would be a similarly private enterprise.
In response to Echter’s request, we formed a subcommittee of Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Council Member Joe Mosca to bring back narrowly tailored options related to cultivation. At least three of us, including me, stated that we wouldn’t support marijuana dispensaries, i.e. shop fronts, at this time. Previously a majority of the City Council, including me, confirmed that we support mobile dispensaries for medical marijuana so residents who need it for medical reasons can get it through a delivery service.
Last November, 65% of Encinitas voters chose to legalize marijuana – the highest percentage of the county’s 18 cities. But there’s a big difference between voting to legalize it, and wanting stores that sell it in our commercial areas. Our job as policy makers is to consider what is best for the entire city, weighing a large number of sometimes competing values.
One of our most persistent complaints relates to our downtown bars – specifically objections to noise, parking problems and impaired people behaving poorly, including shouting, fighting, littering, loitering, affecting traffic flow, etc. I know that alcohol and marijuana affect people very differently. But the question comes down to whether the city’s environment – our much cherished community character – would be improved by allowing stores to sell marijuana. I don’t believe it would positively improve our commercial areas.
Additionally, there is no need for Encinitas to be in the vanguard here. At this point, only the City of San Diego is allowing recreational dispensing, and that’s only from the 15 stores that already legally sell medical marijuana. No city in the county has officially authorized growing recreational marijuana.
It’s important to remember the context in which California’s laws are positioned. Even though California voters opted to legalize it, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug (in the same category as heroin). This means that banks are reluctant to establish business accounts for marijuana businesses, so they exist in a legal netherworld. They often operate on a cash basis because of this, which can result in an increased crime risk. Ancillary business services are also be affected by this unclear legal status – insurance, accounting, human resources, security, transportation.
The recent change in the tone from the federal government, especially the rhetoric that seems to place less emphasis on state’s rights and more emphasis on “law and order,” further concerns me.
If this time in history is similar to the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933, we’ll have plenty of time as a city to make decisions about the type and number of marijuana businesses that we’re comfortable having in Encinitas. There is no rush; we can afford to take this process slowly and seriously consider these decisions.
Housing Element Update
The four-member Encinitas Housing Element Task Force met last Monday night to continue working on a housing solution that the majority of the public will support. As part of our serious commitment to transparency, residents were invited to witness the process. Pictured are (l. to r.) me, former Planning Commissioner Kurt Groseclose, No on T spokesperson Bruce Ehlers and Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Woolsey/Encinitas Advocate.)
One long-time city employee said he’d never seen a city move so fast. We’ve now held three housing meetings in less than two weeks, and have scheduled the next one for 4:30 p.m. this Thursday, February 23, at City Hall.
I feel a particular urgency about remedying our non-compliant housing plan, which to me indicates a city that can’t get its act together. In addition, being vulnerable to lawsuits that waste taxpayer money is an ongoing problem. As the mayor, I don’t like this and I’m committed to remedying it, as I know the entire council is.
Last Monday, we started this somewhat unprecedented public process by pushing desks together and getting into the details for two-plus hours while about 25 members of the public watched us talk to each other.
We agreed to hire an expert to help us answer the technical questions that we no longer have the expertise on staff to answer, and to provide an analysis of whether it’s possible to fit the required density into two stories instead of three. At our next meeting, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to consider some housing plans from other cities that we find appealing, and evaluate the potential experts.
More details are in this Encinitas Advocate story.
Also this week at City Council, we interviewed many candidates for the city’s commissions, and appointed two planning commissioners. The number of applicants and the accomplishments of those wishing to serve is truly impressive. We live in such a blessed town. At our next meeting on March 8, we’ll appoint the remaining commissioners. Here’s an Encinitas Advocate article on the two appointed planning commissioners.
Have a great President’s Day and thank you for your ongoing interest!