A group of El Cajon residents and business owners is accusing city officials of criminalizing commercial marijuana activity.
El Cajon Residents for Responsible Governance filed a lawsuit in Superior Court over a newly adopted land-use ordinance that allows city officials to fine commercial marijuana operators and landlords up to $2500 a day for the first citation — more than $2000 higher than the previous ordinance allowed for.
The ordinance was seen as an attempt to address the passage of Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Marijuana Use Act, which legalized cannabis use for those over 21 years old.
Since its passage, cities across the state and the county have passed ordinances to moderate the rise of pot shops and marijuana use from cropping up.
Poway, Santee, San Marcos, Lemon Grove, National City, and El Cajon passed laws that temporarily banned the cultivation and sale of medical and recreational marijuana.
But members of the El Cajon Residents for Responsible Governance say the law is unjust and ignores the will of the voters who supported Proposition 64.
The lawsuit states that El Cajon mayor Bill Wells has been open about his opposition to the use of recreational and medical marijuana and the ordinance.
"[The state] does not grant local legislative bodies a veto power over whether to allow at all the sale of a commodity," reads the lawsuit. "If that were so, Poway could criminalize the sale of soda, Julian could ban the sale of apples from Ramona, and El Cajon could go further than Ordinance 5065 and could ban the sale of alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, and whipped cream."
The group's attorney, James Finigan, wants the ordinance repealed.
"The city council should read the language of Proposition 64 as it was written in the Voter's Information Booklet on November 8, 2016, and take note of the fact that a majority of Californians living in El Cajon voted in favor of passing it," reads an email from Finigan.
"For Mayor Bill Wells and the City Council to so clearly and blatantly act against the will of the people flies in the face of justice…. Proposition 64 did not contain an opt-out provision."
The group is asking that a judge place a temporary injunction on enforcement.
But El Cajon assistant city manager Graham Mitchell doesn't believe that will happen: he says "the City of El Cajon is confident that its ordinance complies with California law."
The lawsuit will make its way through Superior Court.