San Diego Mayor Stonewalls Medical Marijuana Regulations

By: Eugene Davidovich

It’s now August of 2010, almost fourteen years since the voters of California approved the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) ensuring that “seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”.The initiative also encouraged federal and state governments to “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana”.

Within the City and County of San Diego, voters overwhelmingly approved proposition 215 in 1996, yet local governments to this day have failed to implement a plan. Any progress made in providing for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of it, has been stonewalled by the County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and most recently San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders himself.

The Board of Supervisors which has jurisdiction over the unincorporated areas (app. pop. 400k) of San Diego County has for the last 13 years been at the forefront of the fight against regulations. With the exception of Supervisor Roberts, they took the Compassionate Use Act itself to court at the highest level and lost, creating a several year delay in implementing Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMIC). Due to the delay created by the county lawsuit, legitimate patients who deserved protection the MMIC program provided were forced to go without it. Only last year, after practically being forced, the Supervisors hesitantly implemented one of the most expensive MMIC programs in the State and at the same meeting adopted a moratorium against dispensaries opening up, while they said they were going to “work on a regulation”.

The county supervisors, did not give up their fight after losing at the highest court, and under the guise of crafting a regulation for safe access, have adopted the most restrictive ordinance that exists in the state to date. The new county ordinance essentially extended their ‘moratorium’ in that it created a de-facto ban. Anyone wishing to operate or open a dispensing collective in the unincorporated areas of the county, will now have to go through an exhaustive Sheriff’s certification and inspection process that for all intents and purposes is an egregious violation of patient confidentiality and rights. The patient if approved by the Sheriff will then have to figure out a way to redevelop the remote piece of property, where according to the new ordinance zoning actually allows this type of use. The redevelopment will more than likely include laying roads, constructing buildings and installing the rest of the required infrastructure (i.e. electricity, water, landscaping, etc.)

But wait, as soon as the redevelopment progresses beyond just the planning stage, the land will more than likely have to be classified as a different type of zone, and the patient will have effectively zoned themselves out.

Enough about the county, the City government on the other hand is now on their second attempt at regulating medical marijuana. The first time they tried to work on the issue was in 2003, when the first Medical Marijuana Task Force (MMTF) was created. The committee back then weighed in with recommendations and helped craft an ordinance that allowed patients to cultivate up to 24 plants and possess as much as a pound of dried flowers. This helped give clarity to local law enforcement and provided protection to patients who desperately needed it. The city ordinance also tried to create a City MMIC that would have provided City residents with a government issued ID card, while the county was stalling.

The ID card effort however, was derailed by the County lawsuit and both the ID card and the ordinance never really took effect. Since then, a decision was reached in People v. Kelley and the appellate courts determined that all plant limits are an unconstitutional change to the original legislation. Now, anywhere in California, patients are allowed to cultivate and possess amounts reasonable for their medical condition, rather than a specific plant number. Finally the County implemented its ID cards, and the City decided to give it regulations another shot.

The Council again, set up a very diverse citizens committee that included patients, law enforcement, clergy, medical professionals, and other members of our community. The new MMTF weighed in on the issue with specific recommendations on how to regulate medical marijuana collectives within the City. Following the recommendations of the MMTF, the City’s Independent Budget Analyst as well as the City Attorney’s office also weighed in on the issue and agreed that a sensible regulation would address both the concerns of patients in having safe and reliable access in their neighborhoods, as well as ensure for the safety and concerns of the community. Once again though, the city’s effort ran into a wall.

This time the problems are coming directly from within the Office of the Mayor.
In light of our City’s “strong mayor” form of government, all administrative functions including Code Compliance and the Police Department fall under the direct purview of the Mayor. Since the first meeting of the new MMTF and to this day, all requests to the mayor’s office for help with the ordinance have fallen on deaf ears. Internal sources from within the City reveal that the Mayor has chosen to take a completely different path on the issue and will not help in any way with the proposed medical marijuana ordinance. While publicly claiming support for medical marijuana, privately the Mayor seems to have teamed up with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on the issue, and is collaborating in the effort to shut down all medical marijuana dispensaries in the City.

One of the biggest administrative hurdles City Council staff is facing with moving forward on an ordinance is that without the mayor’s help or approval, they cannot walk the ordinance through its normal bureaucratic process within the City.
So far, every time staffers from council offices working on the issue attempt to get help from the Mayor, their requests are placed on the back burner and sometimes go completely unanswered.

At the same time as completely stonewalling the Council staffs’ efforts with the ordinance, the Mayor has instructed Code Enforcement to begin the process of shutting down dispensing collectives one by one within the city through zoning violations.

These ‘Inspection Teams’ include Narcotics Officers from our County Narcotics Task Force (Headed by DEA) who walk from collective to collective, intimidating landlords, patients, and collective members with Cease and Desist letters, threats of search, seizure, and fines of $2,500 per day.

How could it be that while one department of our government is attempting to regulate access, another department is actively working against it?

Your help is needed today! Please contact the Mayor and urge him to stop this Code Enforcement action and to direct his resources at working with the City Council on a sensible and legal ordinance that would once and for all allow for regulated safe access within the City of San Diego.

Mayor Jerry Sanders can be reached at:
Phone: (619) 236-6330
Fax: (619) 236-7228

Email the Office of the Mayor:

City Administration Building
202 C St., 11th Floor
San Diego, CA 92101

While the Mayor, Bonnie Dumanis, and others in our local government are working hard on derailing and stonewalling patient’s efforts, the sick and the dying in our hospitals and convalescent homes go without access to a medicine that could help them live in comfort, and in some cases die in comfort.

Through your efforts and willingness to stand up and ask for sensible regulations, and by not tolerating the bias driven effort to eradicate safe access to medical marijuana, you are helping hold the responsible people accountable, and are helping patients secure their rights to sensible access for years to come in San Diego.

San Diego Americans for Safe Access

Article Published in August 2010 Issue of NUG Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.