SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERVISORS ADOPT DE FACTO BAN ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA

By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access

SAN DIEGO – Today June 23rd, 2010, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted a de facto ban on medical marijuana collective facilities. Although this ordinance does not directly affect regulations in the City of San Diego or the work of the San Diego City Council on the issue, today’s vote does set a troubling precedent for other cities and counties to follow, and effectively eliminates all safe access to medical cannabis within the unincorporated areas of the county.

The language of the ordinance does not include an outright ban on dispensaries however the draconian zoning and licensing requirements proposed by the county completely eliminate the possibility for any facility to open.

This morning the meeting began at 9am sharp with the Deputy Director of Planning and Land Use Jeff Murphy presenting the staff’s report and explaining how complex, dangerous, and expensive indoor cultivation was. Mr. Murphy explained that the proposed ordinance was designed to protect the community from the ‘dangers’ associated with cultivating marijuana indoors.

Following Mr. Murphy’s report, the Commissioner of Planning and Land Use presented the commission’s recommendations with regards to this ordinance. The recommendations included a suggestion to reduce the 1000 foot separation requirement from sensitive uses down to a less restrictive 600 feet, a decision made at the May 14th planning commission meeting where advocates and concerned citizens presented maps showing the commission that there were no areas where such a facility could locate at the 1000 foot separation requirement.

After the county staff’s report and presentations, Commander Predergust from the San Diego County Sheriff’s department went over the sheriff’s licensing requirements in detail and reiterated the dangers he believes are associated with dispensaries. Cdr Predergust did not cite a single specific incident or any evidence to support his suggestions that these facilities were criminal enterprises and should be treated as such.

Following the reports and presentations, at least two dozen speakers from the community spoke out against the ordinance. Not all members of the public were in agreement on the medical efficacy of cannabis, but all were opposed to the ordinance as written. Many concerned citizens and members of the community that spoke today, raised specific issues with the ordinance as well as made specific recommendations to the Supervisors with regards to what should be changed in the ordinance.

Kate Valentine, of San Diego Americans for Safe Access for example, presented a short video that showed how all the proposed zones where the county’s staff report says medical marijuana facilities could locate, are either undeveloped land or cement factories.

GOOGLE EARTH VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e48YnzWxcY8

Ms. Valentine reiterated to the board that this ordinance would zone out all facilities and suggested that the Supervisors add the following zones as allowed uses into the ordinance: Medical Center Commercial-C46, General Commercial-C36, Office Professional- C30, Heavy Commercial- C37, Convenience Commercial-C32, Freeway Commercial- C44, Service Commercial-C38, and Rural Commercial- C40.

After the public comments on the issue, Supervisor Dianne Jacobs raised a motion to include the original 1000 foot separation requirement rather than follow their own commission’s recommendations and make the ordinance even more restrictive. Supervisor Horn quickly seconded the motion.

After Supervisor Jacob’s comments, the rest of the Supervisors weighed in on the issue, and all with the exception of Ron Roberts supported the restrictive ordinance. The supervisors in support of the ordinance maintained that they did not have clarity as far as the conflict with Federal and State law, that they were still not sure if marijuana really was medicine, and that they did not want it in their community.

The ordinance passed today with Supervisor Roberts being the only one to vote against it. The vote included Supervisor’s Jacobs motion to increase the 600 foot separation requirement back to 1000 feet and the supervisors adopted the restrictive licensing requirements and other portions of the ordinance with the exception of the Zoning Regulations, which will be voted on June 30th.

Today the Board of Supervisors did not even attempt to hide their bias and refer madness propaganda. They openly were looking for ways to restrict and eliminate access to medical marijuana and were clearly trying to overturn the will of California voters. The Supervisors seemed ready to spend more of our tax payer dollars on litigating this issue.

It is the hope of many concerned citizens, patients, and members of our community that the supervisors reconsider their vote next week and modify the restrictive ordinance to actually provide safe access for patients in San Diego, rather than effectively eliminate it.

Members of San Diego Americans for Safe Access have identified the following list of specific changes that should be made to the ordinance before it is voted on. These changes would help both address the la enforcements’ concerns, while keeping patients interest in mind:

1. Zoning Restrictions – Current proposed ordinance, effectively ZONES OUT collective facilities and creates a de facto ban in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. There are zero locations where collective facilities could locate according to proposed zoning requirements. The County’s Staff report and maps do not take into account the developed vs undeveloped land and are not a correct representation of reality. Our analysis and mapping show clearly that there are no locations where a collective facility could locate under this ordinance. At the least, the following categories should be added as allowed categories where a collective facility could locate.

  • Medical Center Commercial-C46
  • General Commercial-C36
  • Office Professional- C30
  • Heavy Commercial- C37
  • Convenience Commercial-C32
  • Freeway Commercial- C44
  • Service Commercial-C38
  • Rural Commercial- C40

2. Sheriff Licensing – The Sheriff’s Department should not be involved at this level in setting up a business/medical facility. The proposed ordinance puts the Sheriff in the role of enforcing civil infractions which makes opening and operating a collective facility untenable. The issue of regulating collective facilities should be in the hands of the Health Department-not law enforcement as collectives should NOT be treated as criminal enterprises, rather health facilities that provide a very much needed service to many thousands of patients in San Diego County.

3. Ban on Cannabis Infused Food and Drink – A vast majority of patients in the county rely on ingesting their medicine using cannabis induced foods rather than smoking it. Banning cannabis induced food and drink unfairly restricts the type of medication a patient can have access to, and should be removed from the proposed ordinance. Many doctors specifically recommend that patients ingest their medicine through food or tincture rather than smoking.

4. Using MMIC to track patient information rather than Sheriff – San Diego County runs the Medical Marijuana Identification Card program. That program specifically and explicitly protects patients’ rights, by using only an identification number and only allowing police to check the validity of the card, not the patient’s address and marijuana usage information. If a patient has a County card, then they should be exempt from the record keeping procedures. Having a county issued ID card should be all the information that the police or any other regulatory agency needs to verify the validity of patients or track patients. The names and addresses of patients should be protected

5. Protecting Patient’s Confidentiality and Privacy – The requirement, that all patient and transaction records be maintained on site, and made available to the Sheriff at any time for inspection, places the patients at risk of federal prosecution and should be removed Americans for Safe Access contends that using MMIC as a way to verify validity of a patient is enough and should be done through the Health Department—not through law enforcement

6. Sheriff’s Inspection of Cultivation – Requiring that the Sheriff inspect and approve all locations where members are cultivating marijuana for the collective places members and patients at direct risk of felony prosecution by cross sworn officers enforcing federal law. All previous raids have been conducted by the County’s Narcotics Task Force, composed of cross-sworn officers. Patients who are cultivating for themselves and have excess that they contribute to the collective should not be subject to the Sheriff’s inspection. ASA recommends that collectives’ cultivation sites be inspected by the Health / Code Enforcement departments

7. Patient Information on Medicine Containers – The requirement to have the patients’ and cultivators’ names on the medicine container predisposes them to prosecution by federal officers and robbery by criminals who may happen upon an empty bottle. This also sets up legitimate patients for federal prosecution and essentially documents the federal felony for the police. This requirement seriously violates patient confidentiality and privacy.

8. Uniform Guard – The requirement to have a licensed uniform guard present at all times creates an undue financial burden on collective facilities with a small membership base. The requirement should be changed to have non-uniformed guards, or the option to train employees, through a County program, to look for suspicious or criminal behavior. If a requirement then it should only apply to larger collectives that can afford it.

9. Felony Convictions – The requirement for any patients with felony convictions not to operate or be part of a collective should be modified to not include convictions related to possession and personal use of marijuana. Many people have been negatively affected by the war on drugs. Violent felonies should be included but simple possession of marijuana should not be a factor in allowing an individual to participate in a collective as a director.

10. Who else in the community wants to see this proposed ordinance changed?

  • San Diego Community at Large
  • San Diego County Grand Jury
  • Americans for Safe Access
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Members of San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force
  • Thousands of Patients and Concerned Citizens

San Diego Americans for Safe Access (ASA) – www.safeaccesssd.com
Join ASA – www.safeaccessnow.org

 

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