Advocates applauded the recent actions of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner in trying to put an end to the years-long crackdown on access to medical marijuana in the city. Two days after announcing at a local chapter meeting of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) that he was going to direct city authorities to stop shutting down dispensaries, Mayor Filner delivered on that promise by sending letters Jan. 9 to San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and Neighborhood Code Compliance Director Kelly Broughton.
Calling on city authorities to "Stop the Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries," Mayor Filner directed them to "stop targeted code enforcement against marijuana dispensaries in the City of San Diego immediately," and "stop sending dispensary code enforcement cases to the City Attorney's Office for prosecution." San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has worked hand-in-hand with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to shut down almost all of the dispensaries in the San Diego area.
Mayor Filner's letter is the result of a promise made at a monthly chapter meeting of ASA members. As a guest of the meeting, Mayor Filner spoke to the group and laid out a three-point plan. In addition to directing the city to stop unnecessary code enforcement, Filner said he would work with advocates to develop a regulatory ordinance for dispensaries. The mayor also promised to personally lobby the Obama administration to address the issue of federal law.
For years, San Diego has resisted implementation of state medical marijuana law. Since 2006, Drug Enforcement Administration agents under both the Bush and Obama administrations have conducted aggressive raids, shutting down hundreds of dispensaries, often with the help of local officials. Finally, in 2009, the city empaneled a task force to make regulatory recommendations to the city council, many of which were ignored when a proposed ordinance was drafted and later passed in early 2011. To avoid what advocates called a de facto ban on dispensaries, a referendum was passed to overturn the ordinance, which ultimately forced the city to rescind it.
"Now we've got a mayor who will work with us," said Eugene Davidovich, ASA San Diego chapter coordinator. "We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on an ordinance that will finally bring the safe access to medical marijuana that our patients deserve." Local advocates will still have to contend with enforcement carried out by the county and federal governments, yet Filner's actions mark a promising shift for the city.
"The leadership of Mayor Filner is a ray of hope for San Diego patients after years of hostility from local and federal officials," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. "Mayor Filner is the latest in a series of local officials to take a bold stand against federal intimidation." The Oakland City Council and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors are both currently engaged in medical marijuana-related litigation against the Obama administration. (ASA, Jan. 11)
Graphic: Herbal Remedies