|Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen
|San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón claims all marijuana sales are illegal. Could his brain have been taken over by L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley?
San Francisco’s 21 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are all illegal, according to a new court filing by District Attorney George Gascón. Observers of the scene speculate that the filing could signify a huge change in the city’s cannabis policies.
City law allows medical marijuana to be bought in dispensaries and delivered to patients who have a doctor’s recommendation. The businesses must acquire licenses and seller’s permits from the California Board of Equalization before receiving city Department of Public Health permits to sell cannabis, reports Chris Roberts at the SF Examiner
But a woman was arrested in December for making a delivery for the city-licensed dispensary Mr Nice Guy, whose storefront was shuttered under pressure from the federal Department of Justice. The woman was arrested with $631 in cash, more than 100 plastic bags of dried marijuana and hashish, and 48 cannabis edibles, police claimed.
|Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal
|Former S.F. District Attorney Terence Hallinan: “This means that people with AIDS have to be out digging in the dirt to enjoy protection under the law”
Despite the woman having proper paperwork showing that both she and the buyer were licensed patients, and that she was working on behalf of a licensed and registered dispensary, D.A. Gascón insisted on charging her with two felony counts of marijuana possession and sales, according to her lawyer, former District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
D.A. Gascón ordered in a legal brief that the law is not on the woman’s side.
“While California’s medical marijuana laws may be complex, the law is clear that all sales of medical marijuana is illegal,” Gascón claimed in his brief. It was almost as if he were channeling infamously anti-marijuana L.A. County D.A. Steve Cooley.
“The … shell game that continues to be played with medical marijuana immunities does not change that conclusion,” Gascón huffily wrote in his legal brief, which could easily be mistaken for instead being a temper tantrum.
The D.A.’s office points to the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, approved by Californians at the ballot box, as well as state court decisions to make Gascón’s argument.
The District Attorney claims that medical marijuana patients must “participate directly in the cultivation of marijuana” to enjoy protection under the law, raising the absurd and disturbing specter of forcing seriously or terminally ill patients to work for their medicine.
“This means that people with AIDS have to be out digging in the dirt to enjoy protection under the law,” said former D.A. Hallinan, who is representing the medical marijuana delivery woman in court. “This is impossible.”
Gascón’s office wouldn’t comment on the case, but spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman claimed the brief in question actually dates back to former D.A. Kamala Harris, who is now California Attorney General. “Her nuanced comments suggest that the DA’s office may be having second thoughts about its position,” Roberts suggests in his Examiner story.
“We have since reviewed the brief and while it accurately reflects state law, we have determined it needs to be revised to reflect the positions of the city of San Francisco and also the policies of the District Attorney’s office,” Stillman emailed the Examiner.
Local defense attorneys said they haven’t seen this legal argument before in San Francisco, pointing out that it resembles filings in Los Angeles by nut job D.A. Steve Cooley, who ran against Harris for Attorney General in 2010 and lost.
“It’s disappointing to see the San Francisco District Attorney’s office parroting the garbage spewing out of Steve Cooley’s office when they try to torture an interpretation of [state law][ behind any recognition,” said Robert Raich, the Oakland attorney who argued and lost a 2005 medical marijuana case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The conflicting signals, with one county agency issuing permits for what another county agency calls illegal, is “emblematic of the ongoing disconnect in San Francisco with regard to the city’s approach to medical cannabis,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), a staunch advocate for and defender of medicinal cannabis patients.