The Coast News Group
Community Del Mar

City maintains status quo on pot laws

DEL MAR — With the commercial sale of recreational marijuana legal since the first of the year, council members opted to maintain the status quo when asked at the Jan. 16 meeting to review the city’s regulations for possible modifications of clarifications.

They did, however, support sending a letter summarizing the current code to the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which is creating a policy to govern potential cannabis-related events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“I don’t feel a sense of urgency to modify our code,” Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said. “What I do think is urgent (is) … to be proactive and send them a letter and just say this is what we are hoping to see in your policy. And I would hope that that letter would include no smoking or selling cannabis products onsite.”

Councilman Terry Sinnott agreed.

“I would put our energy into the 22nd DAA and try to monitor that and try to influence that as much as we can,” he said.

Cannabis use, sales and activity are illegal under federal law. In California, medical and recreational use have been allowed since 1996 and 2014, respectively.

State law prohibits smoking, vaporizing or ingesting marijuana or marijuana products in a public place, anywhere tobacco is prohibited and within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare or youth center.

To comply with state requirements, specific personal use and cultivation are allowed in Del Mar, but commercial activity is prohibited. Personal use of marijuana by people 21 and older is permitted only in a private home.

“It is strictly prohibited in all other places,” Amanda Lee, principal planner, said. “There’s no other place for someone to use marijuana in Del Mar.”

Anyone older than 21 and qualified patients or caregivers can grow up to six plants per house for personal use in a fully enclosed, secure structure that is a maximum of 50 square feet and at least 30 feet from a habitable structure on adjacent property.

Marijuana cannot be grown in a garage or be visible from the public right of way.

Possession is limited to 28.5 grams of nonconcentrated or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis for people 21 and older or qualified patients and caregivers.

Open marijuana containers or packages are not allowed in public while driving or while a passenger in a vehicle.

Lee noted that all zones in Del Mar prohibit marijuana sales or use, including L’Auberge Del Mar and Del Mar Plaza, even though they are governed by specific plans.

Del Mar is in line with 11 other cities in San Diego, including nearby Solana Beach, Encinitas and Carlsbad, as well as San Diego County, which all prohibit commercial sales and use.

Councilman Dave Druker agreed the city should leave the current ordinance as is, but mainly because the city doesn’t “have the time nor the effort” to make changes right now.

“If I were to change these regulations right now, I would allow us to have at least one commercial outlet for recreational marijuana and one outlet for medical marijuana in the city,” he said. “I think the concept of regulating marijuana is passé at this point.

“It’s time for us to get with the 21st century,” he added. “The concept that marijuana is somehow this terrible drug — if it was so terrible half the baby boomers would be dead right now or addicts.”

Druker noted that Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use in California after the 2016 election, was approved by almost 65 percent of Del Mar voters — 1,774-959.

“I believe that the people have spoken and we need to follow their lead, which is we should be allowing for the recreational use of marijuana in our city,” he said. “Come on. We’re dealing with adults here, not with children, in our population.”

“People did overwhelmingly vote in favor of recreational marijuana, but I suspect what they had in mind was … if I want to partake I have a right do that,” Mayor Dwight Worden said. “But if you ask them, ‘Do you want a dispensary in your neighborhood? Do you want a commercial enterprise in your community?’ I think the answer might be different.

“I don’t equate commercial promotion with being necessarily in favor of personal recreational use and our existing code does track state law,” he added. “It does allow personal recreational use in your house. It just means you wouldn’t be able to buy it conveniently in town.”

Last year the 22nd DAA rescinded a contract to hold an educational event at the state-owned facility about medical marijuana billed as the Goodlife Festival.

Most members said they supported an educational event but not any use or promotion of marijuana products because those activities are illegal under federal law.

The board opted to wait until the California Department of Agriculture released guidelines for cannabis events at district agricultural associations, which it did late last year.

They advise adopting a formal policy after holding a public hearing on whether marijuana events should be allowed.

Factors that should be taken into consideration include community values and standards, proximity to areas where minors congregate and input from law enforcement.

Fair board members David Watson and Pierre Sleiman are creating a draft policy to present to their colleagues for discussion in about three or four months.