Update Oct. 12: The Chamber has rescinded its endorsement of Measures U and V after receiving more information from the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
By Miriam Raftery
October 6, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) –Community leaders in La Mesa and Lemon Grove are reacting with shock and outrage over endorsement by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce (ECC) of Measures U and V, which would legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in the two cities. Voters in both La Mesa and Lemon Grove rejected similar ballot measures in the last general election.
“The City of Lemon Grove is a dues-paying member of the ECC. Our tax dollars pay for those dues,” states an e-mail sent to Lemon Grove’s mayor and others from Helen Ofield, President of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, and her husband, Jack. “We urge the Lemon Grove City Council and City Manager to oppose the ECC’s action in the strongest possible terms and to cancel its membership in the ECC.”
At Tuesday’s Lemon Grove City Council meeting, several residents spoke during public comment,voicing concerns that marijuana is bad for children and Lemon Grove’s size of roughly 25,000 does not allow it to handle a flux of dispensaries that could crop up if the measure passes.
Some asked the City of Lemon Grove to hereby cease their affiliation with the East County Chamber of Commerce over its support of the Lemon Grove ballot initiative to regulate dispensaries.
East County Magazine called La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England , who voiced amazement at the ECC’s action.”Why is the East County Chamber taking a stance on a La Mesa ballot initiative?” she asked. “Did they do a survey of La Mesa businesses?” She indicated that her Chamber had not been contacted to help assess the pulse of businesses that could be affected. “Did they talk to La Mesa officials?” she asked. “Did they talk to the La Mesa community?”
England added that her Chamber does not take sides on ballot measures, but rather educates members and the public with workshops feature speakers on both sides of the issues.
ECC president Eric Lund declined to answer questions on what information his Board based their endorsement on and specifically whether his Chamber outreached to La Mesa or Lemon Grove city councils, planning commission, city attorney, the La Mesa Chamber, individual businesses, or community groups.
He also declined to respond when asked via e-mail whether his board has any members in the marijuana industry or has been approached by potential members or sponsors profiting off marijuana. In addition he would not disclose which board members voted for (or against) the endorsement.
He did, however, confirm that the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove ”have provided more information to the Board” and that the ECC Board “will be reconsidering the position at the next Board Meeting for the Chamber.”
In an earlier e-mail, Lund offered this explanation for the Chamber’s endorsement:
“The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Board did vote to support Prop U and V to empower the cities to enforce their regulations regarding Medical Marijuana stores. Cities can do this through their Conditional Use Permitting Process as does the City of San Diego. Currently, illegal storefronts are opening up and our cities are stuck with trying to shut them down at a high cost. Fining these stores does not provide a simple answer because the illegal stores are making more money than the fines so they stay open. By approving a regulatory process for legal stores, illegal stores will find it much more difficult to open and the City can dictate what regulations they want these limited stores to operate within.”
He noted that legal use of marijuana is “very likely” to pass statewide in the November ballot according to recent polling.
“The negative impact of these medical marijuana dispensaries to the general public is going to be substantially reduced if marijuana is legalized, since people will likely be able to keep a small amount for their personal use and would therefore be less likely to use the Medical Marijuana store route for purchases,” Lund concluded. “The Chamber Board feels that if the State is going to legalize marijuana then it is better to regulate it than to try to ban these stores and at least generate some of the tax based revenues for our local cities to help them recover their costs of emergency services, first responders and public services.”