The Escondido city council majority kicked down the road the question of whether to allow commercial cannabis sales within city limits and tax the proceeds—perhaps indefinitely.
At the council’s March 24 meeting, Deputy Mayor Mike Morasco, and councilmembers Joe Garcia and Tina Inscoe voted to postpone until some indefinite time further discussion. About 120 members of the public weighed in on this issue with written comments.
Mayor Paul McNamara warned that if the council did not soon address the issue that voters might take matters in their own hands.
“I think we need to address it sooner rather than later,” said the mayor. “The concern is to find the right model. If we do nothing we have had several organizations come in and say they will put it on the ballot. You really don’t want to lose control of it. I’d like to set a time frame for when we discuss this.”
He asked Morasco when he would like to discuss it and the deputy mayor said at some future time.
City Manager Jeff Epp said that postponing consideration of the items past May 12 would mean the city wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a $75,000 grant available for a study.
This “equity grant” study is controversial, said Epp, and involves an effort to provide market remedies “with those who faced the brunt of the cannabis laws in the past,” i.e. communities that have been impacted by drug enforcement and drug use in the past.
Councilmember Consuelo Martinez said she wanted the opportunity to discuss the issue. “A lot of people submitted comments,” she said. “I’d like to make sure those comments are heard.” She said she wanted to talk about the issue well in advance of the May 12 deadline when the city can apply for the grant.
“I’d like to pull the item. It’s a bad $75,000,” said Morasco.
Martinez objected: “I’m not in favor of postponing an item without having a date to take it up again. That is clearly a tactic to not talk about this issue and have time elapse so this grant won’t be accepted. I think having the discussion is important. This is just a tactic to not address the issue and that will have negative repercussions in the future. If not now, then when?”
Councilmember Joe Garcia said, “One important element for me is that I don’t think the grant funds should be the determining factor on setting a date or not. Eventually this will have to be discussed but I don’t think the $75,000 should be the determining factor.”
Morasco later added, “I’m not interested at this time in having a discussion of that.”
Martinez countered, “I think it’s avoiding an issue that is never going to go away. I find it ironic that we had an agenda items and yet we just had a motion to stifle one hundred comments.”
McNamara added, “If you want to delay that conversation, if we don’t talk about the sales and make a decision that will be made for us and we won’t like the outcome.”