Updated at 4 p.m. Nov. 2, 2012, to include additional comments from Councilman Bilbray.
Only four days before the election, Imperial Beach Councilman Brian Pat Bilbray has endorsed Proposition S, which aims to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in Imperial Beach.
“I decided I can’t stay on the fence anymore, especially after what my sister went through,” Bilbray told Patch.
His sister Briana’s skin cancer—and the death of Ignacio “Nacho” Martinez, a close family friend who had prostate cancer—pushed him to act, Bilbray said ina phone interview Friday.
“He loved IB more than anyone I've ever known to love a city,” he said of Martinez. “And because of restrictions to zoning laws, he wasn’t able to get marijuana in IB. He had to send his family all around other places to get it.”
Bilbray is the son of Rep. Brian Bilbray, the Republican in a tough race for re-election in the 52nd Congressional District. The elder Bilbray was mayor of Imperial Beach from 1978 to 1985, the year Brian was born.
Up until Thursday evening, Councilman Brian P. Bilbray said he would not take a public stand on Prop. S, but signed a petition to get the proposition on the ballot.
After a two-year term, Councilman Bilbray is part of a group of six candidates vying for two seats on the Imperial Beach City Council.
Prop. S would enact the Safe Access Ordinance of Imperial Beach, and would strike from the books current city law which allows three people or fewer to form a collective to cultivate their own marijuana but prohibits storefront dispensaries.
“That's such a long time for someone who is chronically ill to wait, and really in fact a lot of people can’t wait that long in order to get it,” he said.
“Fact of the matter is, it does work—patients do need it. I have seen it firsthand,” the Yes on S campaign quoted Bilbray as saying. “Patients deserve the right to safe local access in Imperial Beach. It’s time to end the rhetoric and let reason, science and evidence drive our public policies.”
The San Diego County Democratic Party urged local residents to vote yes on S. Among registered voters, Democrats are the dominant political party in Imperial Beach, and previous marijuana initiatives, Prop. 215 and Prop. 19, both passed in IB.
Councilman Bilbray, a Republican, said he decided to support Prop. S days before the election—in part for personal reasons.
“With my sister having to use medical marijuana to treat her stage three melanoma, this issue is very emotional and personal for me and my family,” he told the Yes on S campaign. “If the federal government is not going to take it upon themselves to start regulating, allow the FDA to actually look at it so it can be put in pharmacies, then it is up to the states to do exactly what they have done.”
In July 2011, his sister Briana Bilbray encouraged council members to vote against restrictive medical marijuana ordinances. The ordinances passed 4-1. The sole no vote came from Councilman Bilbray.
In November 2011, Briana was party to an injunction to stop U.S. attorneys from shutting down dispensaries.
Briana Bilbray is a member of the San Diego County Republican Party Central Committee and attended this year’s Republican National Convention. Congressman Bilbray does not support medical marijuana, but appeared in an ad with his daughter that recognizes his efforts to support cancer research.
Both Councilman Bilbray and candidate Erika Lowery received the endorsement of the Republican Party of San Diego County, which encourages IB residents to vote no on S.
Lowery backs Prop. S, and Yes on S volunteers going door-to-door have championed Lowery’s candidacy.
“We are all individuals, and just because we have been endorsed by one group or another, we still have to do what we the think is best for our community,” Bilbray said.
Councilman Jim King, also seeking re-election, said he plans to vote no on S. Mayor Jim Janney also opposes the ballot initiative and has given more money to Citizens Against Prop. S than any other donor. Councilman Ed Spriggs has also given money to Citizens Against Prop. S.
Opponents argue that Prop. S would allow an unlimited number of dispensaries to open in IB.
The Yes on S campaign, sponsored by Americans for Safe Access and Canvass for a Cause, , more than all Imperial Beach City Council candidates combined.