IB Council OKs Vote on Marijuana Dispensary, Plan Rival Measure

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Published July 19, 2012 by Imperial Beach Patch.

The Imperial Beach City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to place an initiative on the November ballot allowing regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Council members said the move was done in the interest of democracy, and comes after a two-year moratorium on such clinics and a restrictive ordinance last year.

A resolution for the city to form a competing measure was also unanimously approved and must be assembled and delivered to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office by Aug. 10.

Immediately after briefs from city staff on the measure, Mayor Jim Janney made a motion to discuss putting the measure on the ballot.

The proposed ballot measure is flawed in some ways, he said. He does not intend to vote for the initiative, but believes the measure should appear on the ballot in 2012.

“I think people have collected signatures. I think people have the right to vote here in California,” he said. “I do not support the initiative. I support the 1,012 people who signed it.”

Councilman Jim King agreed.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the people who drafted this did not take into consideration what the city was trying to do and expand at a reasonable rate rather than spreading the zones all over the city,” King said, referring to an ordinance the council passed last year that allows patients to form collectives no larger than three people.

“At the same time, I support the right of the people to use the initiative process to get some direct democracy,” he said.

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg voted for the ordinance to appear on the ballot but said she did not support it being adopted because it does not restrict how large a dispensary may be, prohibits the city denying business licenses and does not require minimum interior lighting.

The state Election Code says that the city may not amend any portions of the ballot initiative.

Councilman Ed Spriggs was the sole vote against the measure because he said he wanted to see a competing measure on the ballot.

“We all agree that there are flaws in this measure, so to a large extent if we pass this forward and it is enacted, we have some responsibilities that we passed a bad measure,” he said.

According to the Election Code, the Imperial Beach City Council had the option to approve the ordinance outright, request a report from city staff or put the ordinance on the ballot.

Paid workers for Canvass for a Cause and volunteers collected more than 1,000 signatures of registered voters in less than three month to meet a 10 percent threshold to force city action.

If both measures appear on the ballot and receive a majority vote, the ordinance with the most votes will be adopted into law.

The Registrar of Voters Office says a ballot measure would cost the city about $8,000 to $9,500.

Had the council voted instead to receive a report Aug. 15, a vote on the Safe Access Ordinance of Imperial Beach would have been delayed until 2014.

More than 20 people spoke in favor of the new regulation, many from outside IB, and four in opposition, none from Imperial Beach.

Many speaking in favor of regulation finished their public comment by saying, “The people spoke. It’s time to vote.”

Speaking in opposition were representatives from Communities Against Substance Abuse, including Enrique De La Cruz from Chula Vista.

“I urge you to think about the ramifications. Aside from people gathering signatures, try to see what else has happened and what could happen,” he said.

Carol Green with Sweetwater Council of PTAs and drug and alcohol counselor Evelyn Hogan both supported option three to study the ramifications of the safe access ordinance.

“We want you to know we are not asking that anyone not receive their medicine but those store dispensaries send a wrong message to our children,” she said.

Hogan said characterizing marijuana as a medicine has made her job and her client’s lives tougher. roponents for marijuana characterizing it as medicine has really been difficult with my clients,” she said.

“They have really recharacterized marijuana and its level of danger, which I see everyday and have for 25 years,” she said.

More than 30 Americans for Safe Access and Canvass for a Cause volunteers assembled outside City Council chambers before the meeting.

When a vote was taken Wednesday, supporters of regulation packed the room to capacity.

Rosa Alvarez of Imperial Beach joined the group and said she wants nothing less than safe access.

“I do not want someone in the street to pretend they have the best interest of the people,” she said.

Joe Keltner of Imperial Beach spoke in favor of having access to marijuana.

“It should actually be legalized for everyone to enjoy and to use to help whatever ails them,” he said. “I have three teenage children. I’d much rather them smoke marijuana than drink beer.”

Several people with an assortment of illnesses also said they wanted to see the ordinance passed.

Medical marijuana patient Vey Linville said he was caught off guard by how quickly city council voiced their support to sending the measure to the ballot.

“We’re frankly quite surprised this is not what we expected this evening at all,” he said. “I know it can be tedious but this is our process in America.”

Linville took part of his public comment time to thank Councilman Brian Bilbray.

Bilbray cast the only vote against an ordinance passed last year and has supported his sister to keep disspensaries open.

The Safe Access Ordinance of Imperial Beach would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in commercials areas at least 600 feet of schools or 300 feet of each other.

Analysis by the city found that 16-18 dispensaries could be located on Palm Avenue, and eight to nine on Seacoast Drive, with other possible locations on 13th Street.

The ordinance would also repeal legislation the city passed a year ago.

Imperial Beach voters have approved medicinal marijuana in the past.

In 1996, IB voters approved Prop 215 with 56 percent in favor.

In 2010, though Prop. 19 failed to get a majority of votes in California and San Diego County, 54 percent of Imperial Beach voters supported legalization of marijuana, accounting for the third-highest percentage of yes votes in San Diego County behind cities like Solana Beach, Encinitas and Del Mar.

Requests were made to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in 2009.

Instead of regulation the city passed a moratorium for two years and last summer voted 4-1 to approve a ban.

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