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Encinitas pot initiative will go to voters in ’20

Encinitas won’t be going to pot in the near future, but it might in 2020.

The City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 15 to put a citizen-led cannabis initiative before voters on the November 2020 ballot. 

If approved, the initiative would allow marijuana to be sold at four retail locations. It would also authorize the commercial cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana in the city.

The Cannabis Activity Zoning Ordinance of Encinitas missed a signature-certification deadline by minutes, which set off a chain of events that rendered it ineligible for the 2018 ballot.

The initiative did, however, meet the requirement that 10 percent of registered voters sign it. As such, the measure can legally go before Encinitas voters in the 2020 election.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council was faced with three options regarding the measure: adopt it in its entirety, put it to voters in 2020, or order an impact study with a quick turnaround and then decide whether to adopt the measure or send it to voters.

No council members advocated for immediate adoption. Councilman Tony Kranz, after noting that he’d had the “remarkable opportunity to see the passion on both sides” of the marijuana debate as both a public figure and private individual, said, “We’re experiencing a change in culture, and I don’t think it’s something we should force on one side or the other.”

In their deliberations, the council agreed that an impact report would be more beneficial if conducted later due to the constantly changing landscape of cannabis regulations. As Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath pointed out, it’s likely that the state will implement new regulations related to delivery in the next few months.

Lorri Greene, who spoke in support of the initiative during public comment, urged the council to at least adopt a delivery ordinance that would provide residents with safe access to cannabis products used to ease pain and symptoms related to fibromyalgia, cancer and other medical conditions.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear expressed her support for permitting legal cannabis-product deliveries in Encinitas as opposed to the illegal ones suspected to be operating in the city currently. But Blakespear also wondered whether the council should first see what happens with state regulations, which could make the matter moot.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control has proposed legalizing the delivery of cannabis products anywhere in the state, including in municipalities like Encinitas that ban pot shops. That proposal has to go through public comment and other steps before becoming law, but it could change who can access marijuana and where for the entire state.

Blakespear also advocated for a tax-revenue measure to run on the ballot at the same time as the cannabis initiative. The measure would essentially ask voters whether they want to tax cannabis products should the sale of such products become legal in the city. The rest of the council appeared amenable to such a tax proposition.

The mayor further asked that a study eventually be done that would analyze the marijuana initiative as it relates to land use. In other words, she felt that the city should know where cannabis could be sold, grown, processed and so forth.

After further discussion, the council voted unanimously on a motion that both puts the initiative on the November 2020 ballot and directs the city manager to draft a timeline for when such studies and other steps related to taxation and land-use analysis would be completed.