Escondido says no to recreational pot

Marijuana won't be sold in Escondido.
(Mathew Sumner / AP)

Escondido’s leaders want nothing to do with recreational marijuana and this week strengthened city laws to that effect.

The City Council Wednesday also added marijuana to its list of things covered by the city’s seldom-used social host ordinance.

Medical marijuana sales were already banned in the city. The new regulations address recreational marijuana and bring city rules into accord with the provisions of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state but also gave local jurisdictions authority to decide what they think is best for their communities.

“There is a great debate about marijuana use, but Escondido is taking the toughest restrictions on cultivation, deliveries, dispensaries, you name it,” Mayor Sam Abed said.

“Our community doesn’t want it and we don’t want it either.”

However, results from the November 2016 election suggests otherwise: 52.1 percent of Escondido voters favored the legalization of pot.

Based on Police Chief Craig Carter’s suggestion, the council also voted to update the city’s social host ordinance, which had focused on alcohol use by minors at parties.

The change broadens the scope of the ordinance to also address the use of cannabis and controlled substances by minors.

The social host ordinance holds adults responsible when they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful consumption of alcoholic beverages, marijuana or other drugs by a minor at a party.

Carter told the council the goal of the city is to never have to use the social host ordinance and it seems to be working. Only one citation under the ordinance was issued last year, he said.

“The reason we only had the one is because what we do is we respond to the call and we give a warning.” He said often party hosts don’t understand what they’re doing is illegal.

“If we have to come back, we will charge for the time of every single officer and dispatcher and then make the citation.”

Violators of the ordinance theoretically could face a six-month jail sentence, but far more likely a large fine.

“We don’t typically get to the second place because they realize it’s going to be a big bill and a potential jail sentence,” Carter said. “It’s effective for what we’re looking for. We don’t really want to get to that other end. We just want the action to stop.”

Two students from the Del Lago Academy, both involved in local anti-drug groups, addressed the council in support of the recreational pot restrictions and the addition to the social ordinance wording. Carolina Flores and Arturo Velasco were applauded by the council and audience.; 760/529-4931; Twitter: @jharryjones