Pot at race concerts still a concern

DEL MAR — 2013 marked the first year the San Diego County Fair was completely smoke-free inside the gates. 

About a dozen people who lobbied the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors consistently for years to make the change praised them for the move during the August meeting.

But as happy as the speakers were with the decrease in tobacco use at the fair, they were equally upset by the number of people smoking marijuana during the concerts following the horse races.

Many said they were also disappointed by the apparent lack of enforcement.

The Seaside Stage is a nonsmoking venue. As such, sheriff’s Capt. Robert Haley said anyone smoking cigarettes or marijuana would be cited.

He said the problem is mostly addressed by Elite Security, a private firm hired by the Del Mar Fairgrounds for major events.

Two factors make enforcement increasingly difficult, he said.

“If one or two people are smoking in the middle of a crowd of 2,000, we’re not going send two people in there to stop it,” he said. “If there’s an assault we’ll be there in two seconds.

“We do have a no-tolerance policy,” he added. “But causing a mini-riot to write someone a citation (for an infraction) – that’s the balancing act. We don’t want to put deputies or anyone from Elite in danger.”

Adding to the problem of enforcement is that “a significant number of people” have medical marijuana cards.

If such a patient is smoking marijuana while walking down the street it’s unlikely a deputy would take action.

“There are definitely legitimate uses,” he said. But if that same person is off to the side smoking during a concert, he or she will be cited for smoking in a nonsmoking area, he added.

“We don’t want to create a conflict, and we want to make sure people don’t get hurt,” he said.

Asked how the fairgrounds is addressing the issue, Josh Rubinstein, vice president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which runs the race meets, said his organization “provides significant security.”

“We work with local law enforcement to create a safe and secure environment for all attendees,” Rubinstein said. “We do not allow or condone the use of illegal substances. Furthermore, we do everything that is reasonable and prudent to preclude the use of these substances at our facility.”

Adam Day, fair board president, said his group is working “hand-in-hand with DMTC and the message is clear to security and the sheriff. Illegal activity won’t be tolerated.”

Day acknowledged marijuana smoking at concerts is a continuing problem that needs to be addressed.

“I trust our law enforcement professionals to do their job and protect the people,” he said. “If there’s more than one or two people (smoking marijuana), which I suspect there are, they will do everything they can to address the problem.”

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