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North County Report: Vista Delays Changes to Commercial Pot Ban

A county Republican candidate is the most pot-friendly in the race, higher rates of homelessness in schools and more in this week's roundup of North County news.

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The Vista City Council balked this week at changes to its ban on commercial marijuana. Instead, officials wants to see more community input on the “minutiae” of marijuana regulations.

Much of the discussion highlighted the confusion local leaders face when dealing with marijuana and what’s possible under existing rules. Only Councilman Joe Green was receptive to the idea of working with the marijuana industry to provide access for residents.

“I’m not trying to flood my community with weed,” Green said. “I’m trying to provide safe medical access to patients that need it.”

The City Council has been struggling to adopt rules since March, when Green first brought to their attention the efforts of local advocates. Vistans for Safer Community Access has gathered enough signatures to place an initiative on the November 2018 ballot that would allow a limited number of medical dispensaries.

Facing the loss of control of their own zoning regulations for marijuana outlets, the City Council has struggled to adopt comprehensive rules.

One exchange on Tuesday between Green and Mayor Judy Ritter — referring to the case of a grandmother who gets marijuana-infused creams delivered to her house — captured the confusion. It began when Ritter noted there are websites allowing people in Vista to place home deliveries.

“Couldn’t you pull the delivery driver over going to a house in Vista?” Green asked.

“Why? That’s not illegal,” Ritter responded.

“Is it illegal to deliver in the city of Vista right now?” Green asked Assistant City Manager Aly Zimmermann, who nodded. “So yes, they could get pulled over on their way to deliver.”

Ritter said she thought “delivery” referred to the logistics of a commercial supply chain.

Deputy Mayor John Aguilera went on to question the need to do anything at all, likening teenagers buying marijuana with people treating medical conditions.

“This whole ‘access’ thing is an end around,” he said. “There is access right now. Our kids can get it tomorrow morning at Vista High or [Rancho Buena Vista High School]. I’m sure I could go out there and get it somewhere tomorrow.”

Republican is Most Pot-Friendly in County Race

Cannabis industry interests also have their eyes on outgoing Supervisor Bill Horn’s seat in 2018, hoping to get a majority of the elected officials who oversee unincorporated areas on their side, writes KPBS’ Alison St John.

I previously reported that marijuana was the dividing line between the two Republican candidates. Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern is the most pot-friendly candidate in the race, but he always downplayed the role cannabis would play in the race.

Now, Kern seems to be warming to marijuana as a duty.

Kern told KPBS: “I voted against medical, I voted against recreational, but my job as an elected public official is to follow the vote of the people: it got 57 percent of the vote in the state and 57 percent in the city of Oceanside. It got 55 percent in San Marcos.”

Although Democrats typically champion this cause in California, the lone Democrat in the District Five race, Oceanside Councilwoman Esther Sanchez — who may not actually be running — is against marijuana access.

In the most recent filings, Kern was the only one to report contributions from the cannabis industry — about $1,400 of the $36,500 he brought in last year.

Higher Rates of Student Homelessness

New data from the County Office of Education shows that the number of students who were homeless increased by 4.7 percent last year, with many of the largest populations of homeless students attending districts in North County.

Inewsource reports that while the methodology for classifying students as homeless is flawed, millions of dollars are at stake for districts like Vista Unified, Escondido Union Elementary and Bonsall Unified.

Most people think of homelessness as living on the street, but the county also includes students who live in shelters, motels, or whose families are doubled up in a house with another family.

According to the county’s data, Vista Unified had 2,522 homeless students in the district, amounting to about 10 percent of the district’s total enrollment. Escondido had 1,256 homeless students, about 6.6 percent of its enrollment. Bonsall had 439 homeless students, making up about 15 percent of all students in the district.

Inewsource published a searchable database of findings from across the county.

Also in the News

Escondido’s Stone Brewing is suing the makers of Keystone beer, Miller Coors, for rebranding its beers as just “Stone.”

• Supervisor Bill Horn, on the question of holding budget hearings at night, said: “If you’re a concerned citizen … you could make the time to come down here to testify.” Personally, he added, “I don’t want to sit here at night.” (Union-Tribune)

• A Carlsbad man won a gold medal in an Olympic snow-surfing event in PyeongChang. (Transworld)

• The Oceanside Blade-Tribune building, which was modernist architect Irving GIll’s last project before his death, will see new life as a restaurant. (Union-Tribune)

• Officials there extended plans for a seven story hotel next to Oceanside High School that have been around in some version for 13 years. (Union-Tribune)

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