La Mesans will have the chance to vote on a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, after the city council voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a resolution adding it to the ballot in November 2014.
The ordinance is based upon a certified petition that was filed with the city clerk last month. It contains the requisite number of signatures (3,041) needed to submit it to voters in the next statewide election.
The council was given three options on what to do with the ordinance: immediately enact it into law, choose to place it on the ballot for the next election, or order a report compiled by the City Attorney with information on the impact the ordinance would have for the City of La Mesa.
They chose not to order a report, deeming it unnecessary and redundant based on similar reports that already existed for other county municipalities.
The council heard from two medical marijuana advocates, who encouraged the council to enact the resolution right away, and to provide safe access to medical marijuana for patients that need it.
“I drink cannabis medicines to breathe. They keep me from suffocating,” said Vey Linville, advisory board member for SD Chapter of Americans for Safe Access. “They last about five hours so when I wake up I’m gurgling like an aquarium. I put drops in my tea. It’s kept me from avoiding a double lung transplant, and the truth is I’m getting better. I have emphysema and I’m not supposed to get better, but I am just so you know.”
Linville, who lives in Spring Valley but told the council he’s “in La Mesa virtually every day,” is on an oxygen tank.
“I hope that I don’t strike anyone as scary or intimidating or someone that you wouldn’t want in your community. I’d like to think that I’m not,” he said.
Linville added that it wasn’t terribly difficult to gather the signatures. He said that if the ordinance was not immediately enacted, “there will be a long line of people at this podium, telling you things for and against.”
“I think it would make sense for all of us to avoid all that and enact a sensible regulation that will protect the community and take this and put in the plain light of day,” he told the council.
However, newly re-elected councilmember Ruth Sterling said: “I feel like that’s democracy – that we should not deny those lines for and against. I think that would short circuit the process.”
The discussion then turned to whether or not a report should be ordered, further informing the council on what impacts the ordinance would have for the city.
City Attorney Glenn Sabine said that the report, which he would have compiled, would have had very little information that was not already available in other reports ordered for other cities in the county.
“The reports that have circulated around the county are essentially a legal analysis, and I can summarize it,” he said. “There’s a disagreement about the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) being in conflict with the Controlled Substances Act, and it’s over and over in the cases. And the appellate courts are disagreeing.”
Mayor Art Madrid was the lone ‘No’ vote on the motion, citing his desire to see a report as well.
“I for one am not a subject matter expert, and I would like to find out more information,” he said. “It may be just a boiler plate [analysis] of what other cities have done, but I’d still like to see how it would apply to La Mesa.”
Sabine clarified a question raised that by placing the ordinance on the ballot for the November 2014 election, the council in no way is endorsing the ordinance, or the existence of collectives within the city.
Additionally, there is no guarantee that even though the initiative is on the ballot, that it will remain on the ballot, pending litigation that continues in state and appellate courts.
“If we get to 2014 and because of the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, federal law preempts local or state regulation, the reality is that this council may have an option to invalidate the initiative if it in fact, passes. Right now the state of the law is up in the air.”
Councilmember Ernie Ewin said: “It’s an open-ended thing all the way to the election. In the event that there is a significant shift in the fedral law or the state law, are we then allowed to pull the item from an election at a subsequent time?”
Sabine said that it’s up in the air.
“It may be deemed illegal. There could even be a court order to have the item pulled.”
In other council news:
Chief Ed Aceves presented the quarterly crime report, for Q3 2012.
The total crimes increased by nine percent from the same time period last year. However, the violent crime rate is down 12 percent. Specifically, the number of robberies dropped by nine percent from Q3 in 2011.
The number of property crimes rose from the same time in 2011, by 143 total crimes, which contributes to the higher overall rate. These crimes include burglary, theft and auto theft. This increase also includes a massive 55 percent increase in residential burglaries since Q3 2011, however Aceves said that this is due to an unusually low number of burglaries over that time.
“Unfortunately in September we had our first homicide of 2012. Which was followed 13 days later by our second one. For statistical purposes, that gets recorded in the fourth quarter, but the bottom line is that is the first time in our city’s history where we’ve ever had two homicides that close together.”
“The one on Amarillo, we have arrested somebody and he is in custody awaiting the court process. The first homicide is still under investigation. It was the one on Fletcher Drive where someone was basically left in the middle of the street. Our detectives are combing over a mountain of evidence and I feel confident that we will come to a good conclusion in that one as well.”
Sterling asked if there was a way to increase police surveillance at Grossmont Center.
“We’ve had these purse snatchings, and El Cajon has a couple more police over there at their Parkway Plaza. I’m wondering if you can figure that out with the holidays approaching?” she said.
Aceves said that Parkway Plaza-Westfield actually pays two El Cajon police officers full-time salaries to patrol there. He said that decisions like that are up to the mall itself and it’s a fairly expensive proposition.
“We work very closely with Grossmont Center and obviously these most recent robberies are concerning,” he said. “We are working to address these. The two suspects who we believe are tied to all these have also done them in other areas, other shopping centers in San Diego County.”
Aceves also said that the police department is really stressing crime prevention aspects during the holiday season: paying attention, making yourself a harder target, not burying yourself in your cell phone, being alert as a shopper.
“And if you ever think something is suspicious, call us. We’ll have extra enforcement there over the holidays,” he said.