On Monday afternoon at a City Council meeting, San Diego resident Ken Cole spoke out as a business owner and a citizen in favor of Mayor Filner's proposed new medical marijuana dispensary ordinance. Both he and the Mayor's office watched in dismay as the City Council voted to essentially ignore them.
San Diego mayor Bob Filner.
Tuesday morning, Cole's downtown San Diego cannabis collective, One on One, was raided by federal DEA agents and local authorities with the Sheriff's office who literally broke down the front door and carried out cash, crops, and computers past a crowd of angry protesters.
On Wednesday, the Mayor spoke out strongly against the raid at One on One, even apologizing for the actions taken by law enforcement, when he told local NBC 7 San Diego, "It just incites people, it just provokes people. It doesn't help discussion, rational discussion. I'm sorry that it took place. And I haven't got a real good explanation for why."
With well over 200 medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives closed across San Diego since 2011, many of them as a result of raids like the one downtown on Tuesday, Cole's stylish 6th avenue spot (once owned by Larry Flynt, of Hustler Magazine) was among the last dispensaries to keep its doors open. The Mayor and the City Attorney's office had spent weeks discussing One on One specifically, and according to the Mayor, he determined them to be legal.
In response to the raid, City Council President Todd Gloria released a statement, which read,"Today's raid demonstrates the ongoing conflict between California's allowance of marijuana for medicinal purposes and the federal government's view of it as an illegal substance."
Questioning the timing of it all, and shedding light on what many pot advocates see as bullying tactics from an oppressive local government, Filner added, "The very person who spoke out at the meeting last night is then raided today, that does not seem to be the way that police ought to operate in our society."
Patrick Kelly, the Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Narcotics Task Force (Geez, Dwight Shrute must be jealous of that guy's title), defended the actions of his office, stating, "The mayor clearly has some strong opinions about distributing marijuana throughout San Diego County but the DEA's message has been consistent since Day 1."
Filner was swept into office in 2012, helped largely in part by support from the medical marijuana community in San Diego who saw him as not just the lesser of two evils, but as a truly compassionate and understanding voice for cannabis.
As with most large cities in America, San Diego employs what is known as a "Strong Mayor" system of city management. In this form of governing, the mayor is given pretty much full control, with the power to override or even circumvent the City Council. This "Strong Mayor" system was only implemented in San Diego in 2010, when they had a Republican mayor, a conservative Council, and no Bob Filner to be seen on the horizon.
Jack Daniel. San Deigo City Council earlier this week.
(Strong Mayor - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayor%E2%80%93council_government)
Since taking office, Filner has flexed the power on more than one occasion on other city issues, at times putting him at odds with the weakened City Council. He also has an ultimate veto power, which he still could, and may, use to halt any new pot ordinance that comes out of Council if he deems it to be too restrictive.
San Diego City Council President, Todd Gloria, is confident that he and his colleagues will be able to construct a fair ordinance that all sides will find agreeable. As for his timetable, he told local media outlets that he "hopes" the Council will be able to consider a new ordinance within a "handful of months".
In the meantime, as both the Mayor and Councilman Gloria were giving their statements, members of the same Narcotics Task Force that busted One on One performed similar raids at two commercial buildings in San Diego on Wednesday, this time targeting two hydroponic growing supply outlets which authorities believe may be connected to an ongoing investigation.
At 8pm Wednesday, three men stormed into a medical marijuana collective in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. Brandishing firearms, the assailants forced an employee and a customer to the ground, while a 2nd employee hid. The suspects looted the clandestine dispensary of money and weed and escaped unidentified into the night.
This is not safe access.
San Diego's estimated 70,000+ medical marijuana patients deserve better, and they don't have "a handful of months" to wait for Councilman Gloria's hope. All eyes are on the Mayor now, as an entire city anxiously awaits his next move.