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North County Report: Marijuana Drama Across the Board

The two candidates vying to unseat Rep. Darrell Issa have turned their fire on each other, Poway rejects an effort to develop the StoneRidge Country Club and more in our weekly roundup of news from North County.

Longtime flower grower Bob Echter inspects gerbera daisies on his property. Echter is looking to dedicate a chunk of his flower-growing operation to marijuana. / Photo by Jared Whitlock

Ahead of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, going into effect next year, cities across North County are weighing whether to allow commercial cannabis operations, and citizen’s initiatives loom in the background to place additional pressure on city councils.

Oceanside and Carlsbad face such initiatives (as did Encinitas), backed by the Association of Cannabis Professionals. Vista, meanwhile, faces two – one backed by ACP and another by Vistans for Better Community Access.

North County Report

Council members often frame these battles as being about “local control” of a city’s zoning ordinance (which is how cities ban marijuana operations). Many officials hoped they could stem support for these initiatives in their cities, where majorities of voters supported Prop. 64, with small steps toward legalization.

While Carlsbad opted to continue its ban on marijuana, Vista and Encinitas both attempted to craft their own rules.

Vista was looking to allow two dispensaries, compared with the 10 dispensaries called for by one of the initiatives in that city, but the City Council wasn’t convinced how to move forward with deliveries and dispensaries, and decided not to take action on any of it until next year.

After an Encinitas subcommittee was unable to produce a set of recommendations to the City Council, nearly 100 residents turned out for a recent Council meeting to voice their opinions on regulations. The split opinions persuaded the Council to put the issue back to the voters as a ballot measure, while ACP announced it had stopped gathering signatures for its petition.

Oceanside also attempted to craft its own rules by forming an adhoc subcommittee of the City Council to discuss what they would look like.

The recommendations included City Council approval for cultivators, retailers or manufacturers; administrative approval for labs to test cannabis products and a “track and trace” program to verify the supply chain for every product.

It’s unclear whether those recommendations will be adopted, since the three Council members who were not part of the subcommittee have traditionally been against marijuana: Mayor Jim Wood, Councilman Jack Feller and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez.

Sanchez, however, has met with ACP’s Dallin Young, who filed the initiatives in all the cities. She said he made some changes to his initiative after meeting with her.

Sanchez didn’t elaborate what those changes were, and Young didn’t respond to questions about the petition, but ACP’s latest petition in Oceanside differs from neighboring cities by allowing far fewer dispensaries (one for every 40,000 residents, compared with Encinitas’ one for every 15,000 residents), and requiring retailers, cultivators and processors to have labor agreements based on the number of people they employ.

Sanchez said her meeting with Young was done to reconcile the will of Oceanside voters, the majority of whom supported Proposition 64, with her concerns about retail establishments.

“My overall sense is that a majority of Oceansiders voted to decriminalize marijuana, but the separate issue of dispensaries/storefronts is still a question, a question that Dallin Young proposes to be answered by the Oceanside community,” Sanchez said by email. “After our meeting, Mr. Young agreed to several changes.”

David and Amber Newman, who suspended their own initiative earlier this year to work with the city’s subcommittee, said Sanchez has also publicly spoken out against the subcommittee, (which she denies) and her actions amount to trying to undercut the process the City Council itself established.

“She’s not willing to support the city’s own subcommittee, which, let’s face it (supporting an outside initiative) throws the subcommittee under the bus,” David Newman said.

Issa Who? Applegate and Levin Go After Each Other

Democrats Doug Applegate and Mike Levin are going after each other, instead of Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who they’re trying to unseat, the Union-Tribune reports.

Joshua Stewart writes that Levin is going after Applegate’s fundraising capability, while Applegate has attacked Levin’s environmental record.

Though Stewart notes this is a shift in the race, Applegate has questioned Levin’s record since Levin first made headlines with a few “lucky” appearances at high-profile events that Applegate couldn’t attend: a February event organized by activists and labor unions in Vista, and a town hall hosted by Issa in Oceanside.

Applegate’s accusations prompted Levin to post a response on his website, defending his record as an environmental attorney.

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