Santee continues to explore legal cannabis shops – The San Diego Union-Tribune

SANTEE — 

Santee Mayor John Minto didn’t appear too keen about the idea of allowing marijuana dispensaries in the city. Nor did a dozen community members who spoke against it. City Council member Ronn Hall was emphatic: “Hell no!”

Despite those reservations, a majority of the City Council last week said the city should consider crafting a regulatory ordinance allowing cannabis businesses.

Santee currently does not allow cannabis businesses to operate within city boundaries, though there are some retail stores in nearby unincorporated areas in the county as well as in the cities of San Diego, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.

Finance Director Tim McDermott said the threat to local control first discussed at a May workshop is “a real issue.”

McDermott said proposed legislation by the state over the last several years could “mandate to a certain extent that local jurisdictions allow cannabis businesses to operate.” He also said that initiatives by outside groups could “limit best management practices” that the City Council might prefer be on Santee’s own terms.

A group tried to get a citizens initiative on the ballot in Santee several years ago, Santee City Attorney Shawn Hagerty said, but “it was poorly drafted and very poorly processed… and did not qualify.”

If Santee should develop an ordinance, it would give the city control over the hours and days of operations; where they could be located; number, type and manner of cannabis businesses; and other associated needs like security and accountability measures.

City Councilman Dustin Trotter said testing laboratories, which review products to ensure their safety, potency and purity, could be a way for Santee to move toward bringing in professional jobs and “new industry… with the biotech labs and things like that, that we haven’t been able to capture.”

But like Councilmember Hall, who said “this is not going to be beneficial for us to do this,” all the speakers at Wednesday’s workshop said they were against cannabis businesses coming to Santee.

Jean Duffy, whose college-age son also spoke out against it, said, “Preventing youth access to drugs is the first step to reducing use in stopping the cycle of addiction, which has become such a problem in our county… Show me a fentanyl addict that didn’t first start with marijuana.”

Santee School District Superintendent Kristin Baranski also raised a red flag. She said that in June the school board and she wrote a letter to the City Council asking to partner with the city and be part of discussions about cannabis in Santee, and that she hoped that was still a possibility.

Baranski said she wanted the city to keep its current ban on cannabis-related businesses and that by not doing so, Santee could damage its “family-friendly reputation.”

The City Council nixed having staff look into cannabis lounges, but other businesses, including retail and testing laboratories, were green-lighted for further research.

Other cities throughout the county have also approved sales, manufacturing, cultivation and distribution of cannabis products. National City earlier this year approved cannabis lounges.

McDermott said that Santee could have as many as three cannabis businesses, that the average gross sales per outlet could average about $3.5 million, and that the city could implement an additional business tax on the stores.

Like other retail establishments, Santee would draw 1 percent annually in basic sales tax from a cannabis store, but if it adds a business sales tax, as other jurisdictions do, Santee could make as much as $600,000 annually.

City Manager Marlene Best said staff would return at a later date with more specific information on moving forward.