Despite warnings from locals, including City Council member Ronn Hall, who foresee trouble ahead if cannabis shops open in their city, Santee appears to be moving toward that end goal.
At the city’s third workshop on the prospect of opening marijuana outlets in Santee, held during its Oct. 13 City Council meeting, the Council discussed the likelihood of its legal department crafting a ballot measure that would allow voters to weigh in on the matter.
At workshops in May and August, the Council discussed laboratory testing, microbusinesses and cultivation sites in Santee, as well as dispensaries. The city plans to hold another workshop in the coming months.
With the city’s geographical layout and the need for minimum 600 feet setbacks for storefront retail dispensaries from “sensitive uses” such as schools, daycare centers and playgrounds, city officials estimate that the maximum amount of shops likely to be able to open in Santee is three.
Hall said that while he was “totally against this,” he “can read the handwriting on the wall,” and pushed for Santee to have its own measure laying out parameters for cannabis businesses at the ready, in case a citizens’ initiative should move forward.
An initiative similar to ones that passed in La Mesa and Lemon Grove in 2016 was on its way to Santee voters that same year, but fell short of requirements to land on the ballot.
The City Council agreed that it would be just a matter of time before cannabis proponents bring another initiative forward to be placed on the ballot as soon as 2022 and that crafting its own would give the city more control over what cannabis businesses opening in the city would be allowed to do.
In the past five years, both Lemon Grove and La Mesa voters passed sales tax measures on cannabis shops in their cities, with both cities raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues. Santee’s consultant from HdL Companies told the City Council that the tax rate on cannabis sales could range from 4 percent to 12 percent. Hall suggested that Santee look toward the upper limits of taxing businesses.
Speakers cited concerns over what they fear will be an increase in crime and easy access to the drug by children. One asked that the City Council “show your strength, (take) the moral high ground” and continue to follow federal law prohibiting the possession of marijuana.
City Council member Laura Koval said that the council heard loud and clear from several of those present at the workshop that they are against cannabis businesses opening in the city. But trends show an uptick in medical marijuana and that data backs Santee voters as a whole being in favor of legalizing the drug.
Koval said that she was not advocating for marijuana use but that the city needs to “test the community by a vote” and that the city should consider a “pre-emptive strike… something on the 2022 ballot that is pretty strict that protects our city.”