By Miriam Raftery
Hear our interview with Councilman Bill Baber on marijuana measures, originally aired on KNSJ radio, by clicking the audio link
September 13, 2018 (La Mesa) --The La Mesa City Council has approved by a 5-0 vote a ballot measure, Proposition V, which would allow the city to put a business excise tax on cannabis businesses in La Mesa. The tax, if approved, would be paid by the businesses, not consumers. The city’s finance departments estimate that the measure could raise $1.5 to $2 million per year.
“As a separate matter, we’re working on an adult use ordinance that would bring the opportunity for adult use businesses to come alongside medicinal,” reveals Councilman Bill Baber in an interview with ECM on KNSJ Radio. He envisions allowing dispensaries already complying with medical marijuana sales requirements to be the first to carry recreational cannabis.
La Mesa voters in 2016 approved a ballot measure, Prop U, allowing sale of medical marijuana in the city, but not recreational. (Prop 64 legalized use of recreational marijuana statewide, but left sales and growing regulations up to each city or jurisdiction to legalize, or not.)
Prop V would apply to medical marijuana and also recreational, but only if voters or the city council legalize recreational adult use cannabis sales in the future.
Baber sees several reasons for the Council to adopt a recreational marijuana ordinance.
The city is being sued due to vague language in Prop U, which prohibits dispensaries near child-based businesses. Council and staff disagreed on what constituted a child-based business and denied an application near a business that provides some services to minors, but only after the applicant had invested significant funds moving the project through the process in the belief that the site was acceptable.
“Under California law, when an initiative comes in, the Council can’t fix or change it,” says Baber. “I love initiatives because they allow the people to supersede the elected officials and take control. That’s good. The downside is, it’s a one-time written document and you can’t change it.” By contrast, if Council adopts its own ordinance, it would be able to adopt appropriate language and amend it if needed.
“If you don’t take the bull by the horn and regulate it, someone else will,” he notes.
Crime prevention is another reason. Illegal dispensaries have posed numerous crime problems. “That was a big motivation,” Baber says. “We had illegal dispensaries popping up all over La Mesa and it would take a long time to get rid of them.” Some illegal dispensaries have been found selling methamphetamine and other hard drugs.
Adopting a legal framework will raise revenues to fight the illegal dispensaries. “The crime is in the shady illegal dispensaries and we need to push the illegal ones out of La Mesa,” Baber says.
In addition, he states, “We respect the will of the voters.” Prop 64 passed by 54% in La Mesa and Prop & by 53%, he notes.
The issue of marijuana reforms crosses party lines. Baber, a Republican, notes that views of Libertarians and liberals concur when it comes to deregulating cananbis for adult use.
Asked about addressing cconcerns of those who don't want kids to have acces to marijuana, Baber says the medicinal ordinance requires 1,000 feet from sensitive uses such as schools, youth-oriented facilities or churches. He envisions something similar for a recreational ordinance with perhaps additional sensitive uses. “This is a type of business like a bar or a smoke shop that doesn’t belong in every neighborhood.” The city’s first legal dispensary is in an industrial zoned area near wineries and breweries, he notes.
New state regulations that kicked in this summer provide for safety and purity testing of marijuana projects.
“A regulated, well run, clean environment will be much better than the shady places,” Baber believes.