The prospect of a pro-marijuana industry vote leaves some members furious

By Mike Allen

Photo: Kathleen Lippett

October 14, 2021 (Santee) – Santee City Council held a third workshop on October 13 to consider whether to allow cannabis businesses in their city, but clarified that they don’t like the prospect.

Despite the jar stores operating in the towns and county area surrounding the city, Santee took a hard line on drugs long before California voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 64 in 2016, which legalized the recreational use of the drug. marijuana by the state.

But given the reality of the burgeoning cannabis industry, board members said they had little choice in the matter.

Either the city enacts a restrictive law governing businesses, or it faces the prospect of a citizens’ initiative that would give these businesses much more latitude in their operations, declared elected officials during the public hearing during which they took no votes.

City Councilor Laura Koval said recent data showed that most local residents would support such an initiative from an outside entity, so it is up to the city to take the lead by writing its own initiative that would give the city more control over type and nature. of authorized pot companies here.

Right picture: Brittany Biesterfeld

“I just don’t want a company or an outside agency to put a citizens’ initiative on the ballot. We test him (make sure he meets the qualifying rules) and he passes, and we’re stuck with it, ”Koval said. “We need to have something on the 2022 ballot that’s tough enough that protects our character and our city.”

City Councilor Ronn Hall, who has strongly opposed any relaxation of the city’s current law, said he was not in love with the strategy adopted by Koval and a few other members, but realized it could be the best option available.

“I’m totally against it, but I can read the writing on the wall,” Hall said. His wish is to make the fees and taxes on cannabis sales so high that operators decide it is not financially viable.

“I asked (the city attorney) what is the maximum tax we can charge, and there isn’t one,” Hall said. “And if we charge a lot, they won’t want to come here… So if anyone wants to do that, then let’s stick with them. “

A city consultant on the matter told council that the tax rate on cannabis sales could range from 4% to 12%, to which Hall quickly said, “Okay, we can do 12.”

The Council also heard from its staff that if the cannabis sales tax were tied to specific purposes such as improving roads, the initiative would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass, which could prove difficult.

However, not all of the proposed strategies resonated with most of the speakers at the meeting. Ten of the 12 speakers opposed any relaxation or removal of Santee’s current ban on cannabis companies.

Kathleen Lippett said the tax revenues generated by cannabis companies do not cover the additional costs that cities have to spend to deal with the increase in crime associated with businesses. Industry-related arrests disproportionately affect black and brown people, she said, adding that edibles sold by jar stores have names that appeal to children, which often mistake the products for sweets.

Photo, left: Mayor John Minto, Council members Laura Koval and Ronn Hall

Tenaya Webb also said cannabis companies would lead to higher rates of violent crime, mainly because cash-only transactions would lead to a higher number of incidents of theft from customers and store employees. “These (crimes) are not just robberies and assaults, but, in some cases, shootings, stabbings and homicides… In addition, non-violent nuisance crimes tend to increase,” he said. she declared.

On the flip side, some cities that have legalized cannabis dispensaries locally have seen a decrease in violent crime, which is mostly linked to illegal dispensaries in the San Diego area. Regulations in areas where dispensaries are legal range from security cameras visible to law enforcement to metal detectors. Legalization also subjects operators to state regulations aimed at preventing sales of cannabis contaminated with pesticides, mold, or containing more dangerous drugs.

Eric Wiese, who wrote a reader editorial in East County Magazine opposing the cannabis trade in Santee, called on the Council to “show your strength in saying no to marijuana and to” follow federal law “(which still prohibits possession of marijuana). “Show us your strength to occupy a high moral position and be a positive example that people can admire,” he said.

Brittney Biesterfeld, an attorney representing cannabis companies in San Diego and the state, asked the council to include in its order regulations covering all cannabis businesses, including testing and cultivation. Not having this diversity of types of cannabis businesses “creates holes in the supply chain and does not create a sustainable commercial cannabis market,” she said.

Mayor John Minto, a retired San Diego detective, said he recognizes marijuana has legitimate medical benefits for critically ill patients. But the idea of ​​recreational marijuana is foreign to many people. While respecting that point of view, he also telegraphed that the Council would likely create a cannabis ordinance that would be submitted to Santee voters at the end of 2022.

“This idea of ​​going to the polls is absolutely the best way to do it,” Minto said.

The Council will hold at least one more workshop on the issue, but has not given any specific date as to when it will take place.

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