San Diego politicians slowly instituting marijuana prohibition


Stay classy, San Diego.

Estimates are that the city of San Diego has over 70,000 medical marijuana patients, yet, the city has never passed an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, nor has it passed any official ban on the blooming industry.
This no-man’s-land of cannabis legality in America’s Finest City, compounded by the confusion and grey-area in the state medical marijuana laws, led to a rampant rise in the number of storefront weed dispensaries to nearly 300 at the peak in 2010…and then an equally rapid shuttering and/or raiding campaign that saw all but a stubborn few shops close their doors in 2011.

The election of Democratic Congressman Bob Filner to the Mayor’s office in 2012 was supposed to be the answer to San Diego’s solution starved pot problem, but his heroism to the SoCal cannabis community was short-lived, since within a few short months he was allegedly playing grab-ass with every female that walked within arm’s reach. The subsequent “Filner Headlock” that he put the entire city in with his antics is so tight, even the Chargers choked and blew a 21 point lead at home on Monday Night Football this week.
Optimism initially sprang anew in San Diego when newly-elected Mayor Filner instructed the City Attorney’s office to stop enforcing the code violations that were the key first step in shutting down a medical marijuana dispensary in the city. At that point, in early 2013, only a handful of clandestine storefronts existed, but a few more soon lit their green crosses and ‘OPEN’ signs, the number growing…cautiously.
The Mayor proposed a new ordinance in April of this year, but had it shot down immediately by a conservative City Council in an embarrassing Council meeting open to the public.
Did his political rivals know then that he was just a couple of months away from an embarrassing scandal breaking?
The Council voted that day to move forward on its own ordinance plan based on a wildly unpopular – and failed – 2011 measure that, if passed, will prove to be incredibly restrictive, limiting available/allowable land-space for medical marijuana dispensaries to a fraction of 1% of the city and county maps. A far cry from “safe access”.
After four months of scandal from the Mayor’s office, and inaction on the ordinance from the blissfully distracted City Council, an all-too-familiar sense of optimism began to swell recently in San Diego when, on August 29th, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo (re)stating that prosecuting state-compliant medical marijuana operations was not a priority of the Federal government, and that from the Attorney General of the United States himself, down to the beat cops on the streets, the justice system will begin to treat non-violent victim-less weed-related “crimes” with much more leniency.
Good news, to be sure, but still not the full green light that cannabis reform advocates are truly aiming for, which can only come when cannabis is moved off of the list of Schedule I drugs once and for all. Without that protection, within days of the announcements from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys like Melinda Haag (California, Northern District) and Laura Duffy (California, Southern District) both notorious cannabis prohibitionists, issued releases stating that the DOJ memo would not affect the way that they pursued marijuana related cases in their districts.
Still, with no raids having hit the news since the new Fed memo, and with a city government in chaos as the local media tries to groom new Mayoral candidates from the Council ranks, more brick-and-mortar retail marijuana storefronts have cropped up.
City Council President Todd Gloria said that a draft ordinance could go before the City Council early next year. As in; maybe, maybe not.
That indecision has, so far, provided just enough cover for the few brave dispensary owners who have defied the various threats and attempts to scare them into closure. But it appears that Filner’s failure may finally drive the stake into the heart of storefront medical marijuana access in San Diego for the foreseeable future.
Todd Gloria is not only the City Council President, but he has been named as the Interim Mayor and yesterday he announced that per his instruction, the San Diego Police Department and Neighborhood Code Compliance are to immediately resume aggressively enforcing medical marijuana zoning restrictions in the city.
What are the restrictions, you ask? Medical marijuana patients in San Diego have been asking that since Prop215 was passed in 1996.
The City Council “may have” an ordinance drafted by Thanksgiving, and “could have” a vote on it early next year. Until then, the restrictions are easy to memorize – Zero dispensaries, period.
But hey, how ’bout them Chargers?