|Photo: G. Creighton/10 News|
|Five medical marijuana activists including San Diego ASA’s Eugene Davidovich (closest to camera) were arrested at Tuesday’s City Council meeting|
Five medical marijuana activists staged a 45-minute sit-in Tuesday in the San Diego City Council chambers, protesting the final passage of a local medicinal cannabis ordinance which advocates say imposes a citywide de facto ban on collectives.
The set of strict zoning and public safety regulations for the dispensaries was passed on second reading by the Council, with no changes to what was approved the first time around, reports 10 News.
Passage came on a pair of 5-2 votes, despite vocal opposition among audience members who opposed the stringent regulations.
During the hearing, members of the “Stop the Ban Campaign” — a coalition of more than 20 local, state and national groups spearheaded by Canvass for a Cause and the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) — repeatedly chanted “We demand safe access,” disrupting the session, forcing the council to clear the chambers, and postponing a critical vote on the ordinance.
The five advocates remained in the council chamber for at least 45 minutes after the votes were taken, chanting slogans and singing “We Shall Overcome,” despite being threatened with arrest. They left after the meeting ended and were not arrested.
The Stop the Ban Campaign has demanded that the City Council amend its ordinance to a compliance period that will avoid the immediate closure of more than 100 facilities currently serving thousands of area patients, and to open up available space so that collectives can actually relocate.
Unfortunately, despite years of study, thoughtful recommendations from a city-appointed task force, countless letters received from constituents, hundreds of supporters at the last public hearing, the City Council has so far refused to acknowledge the recommendations of experts and the will of the people.
The council members refused to go forward with changes requested by the medical marijuana advocates, including an expansion of allowable zones in which to operate, a reduction in the distance of setbacks and allowing current dispensaries to keep operating while owners apply for a conditional use permit.
|Photo: Peter Holslin|
|Eugene Davidovich, San Diego ASA: “One way or another San Diego patients will gain safe access to their medication”|
”The patient community in San Diego will not be deterred despite the efforts of the City Council,” said Eugene Davidovich, chair of ASA San Diego. Davidovich was one of the protest organizers, and one of the five people in the sit-in 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,” Davidovich said.
Prior to the bill’s first reading on March 28, the Stop the Ban Campaign organized the largest letter-writing campaign in the city’s history, during which San Diego residents wrote in opposition to the ordinance, requesting the passage of specific amendments. The ordinance was also opposed by the chair and vice-chair of the city’s Medical Marijuana Task Force.
Left with few options, activists chose nonviolent civil disobedience to protest the council’s decision to ignore years of citizen and expert input into the development of sensible medical marijuana regulations.
Advocates are now urging San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders 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 it would be sent to the council to be put on the next election’s ballot.