A cannabis industry trade group has filed paperwork in eight of San Diego County’s 18 cities to let voters decide if marijuana business activities should be permitted in those jurisdictions.

On July 27 and 28, the Association of Cannabis Professionals (ACP) indicated its intent to collect signatures for ballot propositions to city clerk’s offices in Oceanside, Vista, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Santee, Lemon Grove, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.

The propositions aim to permit and regulate commercial cannabis operations in accordance with Proposition 64, which was passed in 2016 and legalized the adult use of marijuana in California. Prop. 64 allows for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail sales of marijuana products to begin in 2018—subject to local regulation. The cities that were targeted for a local initiative showed strong voter support for Prop. 64 and have residents and business owners eager for regulated commerce.

In each locale, signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters would result in an election on the proposition during the November 2018 general election. If supporters are able to collect signatures from 15 percent of the electorate, a special election would have to be held within 90 days.

Dallin Young, the executive director of the ACP, said that the goal of the initiatives is to get cannabis business regulation on the books by 2018. The members of the ACP and the cannabis community want a regulatory framework established, to allow marijuana businesses to function in accordance with state law and discourage black market operators.

Dallin Young (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Young believes that a robust legal cannabis market is necessary to discourage illegal businesses from sprouting up in inappropriate locations, such as near schools or churches. ACP members are craving common-sense regulations that will allow them to operate in a responsible manner, he said.

“They aren’t going to be the ones that are selling to the youth. They’re going to follow the rules because they don’t want to put their licenses in jeopardy,” Young said.

The eight propositions are, for the most part, similar—with some variation based on zoning differences and discussions with local stakeholders. When conversations with advocates in Carlsbad revealed strong support for easy access to medicine for elderly MMJ patients, a provision specifically authorizing delivery services was included in the ordinance for that seaside town.

The ACP has a successful history with ballot initiatives.

In November 2016, the group spearheaded winning campaigns in the cities of Lemon Grove and La Mesa. According to Young, the leaders of the two cities have had opposite reactions to the propositions passed by their voters. In La Mesa, the local government is working with businesses to create a safe and healthy business environment that protects the community.

In Lemon Grove, however, the initiative passed by the voters last year is receiving “institutional push-back,” according to Young. The new ballot measure is intended to clarify vague language which the city has interpreted to justify its prohibitory stance, contrary to the intent of the measure.

Acknowledging that special elections and campaigns would be costly for local governments and the ACP, Young noted that his group is willing to avoid the ballot box in cities that enact regulations that are good for the community and cannabis firms. The City of San Diego is currently drafting regulations to allow commercial cannabis activity, with input from the ACP. A hearing on those proposals is on the agenda for a September 11 city council meeting.

At least two of the cities targeted currently have efforts to establish a regulatory framework.

In Oceanside, an ad hoc city council committee has been discussing proposals, and in Vista, a group pushing a separate initiative is already circulating petitions. But the activities in both of those cities are limited to medical marijuana and seemingly ignore the recreational market authorized by Prop. 64.

The city managers of the affected cities have 15 days to create a ballot title and summary for the propositions. At that point, the ACP will publish required public notices in local print media.

Young said the group plans to mobilize volunteers from the San Diego cannabis activism community and to hire a signature-gathering firm to garner the support necessary to qualify for the ballot. Their campaign will be funded by members of the ACP and other interested parties.

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