San Diego Mayor Stonewalls Medical Marijuana Regulations


Graphic: Boing Boing

​It’s been almost 14 years since the votes of California approved the Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana with the recommendation of a physician. The initiative also encouraged federal and state governments “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

Yet local governments within the City and County of San Diego, despite having since 1996 to do so, have failed to implement a plan. Any progress made in providing for the safe distribution of marijuana to patients has been stonewalled by the County Board of Supervisors, anti-pot firebrand San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and now San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders himself according to San Diego Americans for Safe Access.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which has jurisdiction over unincorporated areas of the county (with 400,000 residents), wasted 13 years fighting against issuing medical marijuana cards, rather than simply accepting the will of the voters and of the Legislature, who in 2003 expanded and clarified Prop 215 with SB 420.
With the exception of Supervisor Roberts, they took the Compassionate Use Act itself to court and lost at every single level of the process, including the U.S. Supreme Court. This county lawsuit created a years-long delay in issuing the cards; finally, San Diego County last year was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.
Due the the delay created by the Board of Supervisors, legitimate patients who deserved protection from the Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMIC) program were forced to go without it.
Only last year, after being forced, did the Supervisors hesitantly implement one of the most expensive MMIC programs in the state. But in a cruel irony, at the very same meeting adopted a moratorium against dispensaries opening up, while they said they were going to “work on regulations.”
Remember: at that point they’d already had 13 years — which seems like plenty of advance notice — to devise workable regulations for medical marijuana in San Diego County. Yet they chose to piss away that entire time in a doomed, quixotic struggle against the will of the voters rather than just implementing the damned thing.
Unfortunately, the county supervisors did not give up their misguided fight even after losing in the Supreme Court, according to San Diego ASA.
Under the guise of “crafting regulations” for dispensaries, the supervisors adopted the most restrictive ordinance in the State of California. The new county ordinance essential extends their “moratorium” in that it creates a de facto ban, according to San Diego ASA.
Anyone who wants to operate or open a dispensing collective in unincorporated areas of San Diego County must now go through an exhaustive Sheriff’s “certification and inspection process” that, according to San Diego ASA, is for all intents and purposes an egregious violation of patient confidentiality and rights.
City of San Diego Not Doing Much Better

Photo: Steven Bartholow/SDNN
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is stonewalling regulations that could provide safe access for San Diego medical marijuana patients.

The San Diego 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, according to San Diego ASA.
The city ordinance also tried to create a City MMIC that would have provided San Diego residents with a government issued ID card, while the county was stalling.
The ID card effort was, however, derailed by the County lawsuit, and both the ID card and the ordinance never really took effect, according to San Diego ASA.
Since then, a decision was reached in People v. Kelley and the appellate courts decided 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 long-delayed ID card program, and the City decided to give its regulations another try.
The Council again set up a diverse Medical Marijuana Task Force including patients, law enforcement, clergy, medical professionals, and others. The new MMTF made specific recommendations on how to regulate medical marijuana collectives with the City of San Diego.
Following the recommendations of the MMTF,  the City’s Independent Budget Analyst as well as the City Attorney’s office weighed in on the issue, agreeing that sensible regulations 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 efforts have run into a wall.
This time the problems are coming directly from the Mayor’s office, according to San Diego ASA. “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,” San Diego ASA said in a press release.
Internal sources from within City government 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, according to San Diego ASA.
“While publicly proclaiming 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,” San Diego ASA said.
Without the Mayor’s help or approval, City Council staff cannot walk the ordinance through its normal bureaucratic process. 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, according to San Diego ASA.
At the same time that he is completely stonewalling efforts to move the ordinance forward, the Mayor has told Code Enforcement to begin the process of shutting down dispensaries, one by one, within the city through the use of “zoning violations.”
These so-called “Inspection Teams” include narcotics officers from the San Diego County Narcotics Task Force, supervised by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who walk from collective to collective, intimidating landlords, patients, and members with Cease and Desist letters, threats of search and 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?” San Diego ASA asks.
Your Help Is Needed Today
Please contact the Mayor and urge him to stop this Code Enforcement action and to direct his resources to working with the City Council on a sensible and legal ordinance that would, once and for all, allow for regulated, safe access to medical marijuana 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 Mayor Sanders, D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, and others in local government are working hard on derailing and stonewalling medical marijuana patients’ efforts toward safe access, the sick and the dying in 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 ASA said.