Medical Marijuana Activists Stage Civil Disobedience Tuesday at San Diego City Hall

27526424_640X480-thumb-420x315Patients, supporters participate in a time honored tradition of civil disobedience resisting the passage of a flawed ordinance which forces closure of all city collectives and cooperatives

San Diego, CA – On Tuesday five medical marijuana activists staged an act of civil disobedience at San Diego City Hall, taking a principled and public stand against the new ordinance that establishes a de facto ban on patients’ collectives and cooperatives in the city.

Prior to the bill’s first reading on March 28th, the Stop the Ban campaign organized the largest letter-writing campaign in the city’s history, during which almost 4,000 San Diego residents wrote in opposition to the ordinance, requesting the passage of specific amendments.

Having thoroughly exhausted all political means and left with little option, activists chose nonviolent civil disobedience to voice their opposition to the council’s decision. The activists all part of the “Stop the Ban Campaign” — a coalition of over 20 local, state, and national groups spearheaded by Canvass for a Cause and the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) — dropped empty pills bottles in front of the City Council to symbolize their lack of safe access to medicine. Then they linked arms and sat down on the floor in chambers repeatedly chanting “We demand safe access,” and singing “We Shall Overcome,” disrupting the session, forcing council to clear the chambers, and for a few minutes actually delaying the second vote on the ordinance.

The council members, over loud chants and song, determined to cast their votes, did so (5-2) over the chants and singing. Once their votes were cast the council members all jetted for the exits and left City Hall with police escorts.

Following the vote, police in the council chambers told the protesters to leave or they would be under arrest and warned the audience that anyone who stayed behind with the protesters would be arrested as well. As the room cleared out, the chants and song grew louder.

After all members of the public were escorted out of the council chambers, the lights in the room as well as the air conditioning were cut off in an attempt to encourage the protesters to leave while several uniformed police were stationed on both sides of the protesters waiting for the order to take them into custody.

After a couple hours it became clear the police were instructed not to arrested, harm, or bother the protesters and to avoid by all means, the PR nightmare any arrests would cause City.

“The patient community in San Diego will not be deterred despite the efforts of the City Council,” said ASA San Diego Chair Eugene Davidovich, one of the protest organizers and activists participating in the civil disobedience on Tuesday. “One way or another, San Diego patients will gain safe access to their medication, but it would be much more effective for the city to work with us instead of fighting us at every step of the way.”

The protesters remained in the chambers for a couple hours past the council meeting in protest of the vote and in light of their action were able to send a strong message throughout the City, that this community’s voices will in fact be heard and respected. Those who left the chambers were told by the police that the five inside would be placed under arrest, although that never happened.

Advocates are now targeting San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, urging him to reject the bill and tell the City Council to come back with a version that reflects the community’s input. While litigation is likely to result from the passage of the ordinance in its current form, there is another move afoot. The San Diego chapter of ASA in collaboration with the Stop the Ban Campaign submitted a ballot proposal to the city clerk on Monday in an attempt to put the issue before the voters. A little-used process involving the city’s Rules Committee, could prompt a public hearing on the proposed measure and if approved by the committee would be sent to the council for placement on the next election’s ballot.

San Diego ASA chapter website: http://safeaccesssd.com
Stop the Ban: www.facebook.com/stopthebansd.org

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