The city of San Diego must be congratulated for passing last week a set of medical-marijuana guidelines that will, hopefully, allow some sick people to use pot to alleviate some of their symptoms without fear of arrest or harassment by the police. Councilmembers Brian Maienschein and Jim Madaffer notwithstanding, it was heartening to see the City Council stand up to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), whose agents lobbied hard against passage of the guidelines.
It was also nice to learn that objections by the police chief, the mayor and the dominant daily newspaper don't necessarily add up to a death sentence for an ordinance.
In case you missed it, the city's Medical Cannabis Task Force, whose job it was to quantify the spirit of Proposition 215 for local law enforcement, proposed guidelines that would allow registered, I.D.-card-holding patients to possess up to 3 pounds of pot and grow 20 outdoor or 72 indoor plants. Under the task force proposal, people registered as caregivers would be allowed to possess 12 pounds of pot and grow as many as 90 plants.
As soon as Councilmember Ralph Inzunza Jr. got his hands on the proposal, however, those quantities were drastically altered. As ultimately approved by the council, patients can have 1 pound and 24 indoor plants. They may not grow pot outdoors. And caregivers may have 2 pounds of pot and 48 indoor plants. The task force had wanted to impose a 72-hour waiting period during which the police could not seize marijuana from someone who claims to be a registered patient but cannot immediately come up with proof. But the council struck down that request.
Most of the amendments to the original proposal are fine. The lowered quantities of cut-and-dried marijuana should be enough for patients and caregivers-some is better than none. But the prohibition on outdoor plants is troubling. Medical-pot advocates say low-income patients and caregivers likely won't be able to afford to grow indoor plants, what with the added equipment and energy costs, and we're inclined to agree.
All in all, however, we're proud to live in a city with the guts to establish any guidelines at all.
Coincidentally or not, three days after the guidelines were endorsed by the City Council, as part of a plea bargain, Steve McWilliams, one of San Diego's leading medical-marijuana advocates, told a judge he was guilty of growing 25 pot plants in his Normal Heights yard. His case symbolizes perfectly the contradiction and the struggle between San Diego's progressive move to pass a medical-pot ordinance and the Bush administration's refusal to give way to the rising tide of public acceptance for marijuana as medicine.
The DEA thumbed its nose at San Diego's vote last week and said smugly that since federal law says possessing, growing and distributing marijuana-in any amount and under any city or state rules-is illegal, the federal government will act accordingly. That means more raids, more harassment and more unnecessary, costly clogging of the court system with harmless, otherwise-law-abiding citizens.
Of course, the DEA is manned by a bunch of jack-booted thugs who aren't allowed to think for themselves. They take their marching orders from Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose hard-line, fear-mongering, conservative ways mirror President Bush's.
The problem is marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it's considered among the most dangerous illicit substances with no medical value whatsoever, which just about everyone knows is hogwash. To suggest marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol is absurd. But until Congress takes it off the list and recognizes state laws allowing its use for medicinal purposes, we're going to continue to have problems.
Unfortunately, medicinal marijuana is not high on the public's list of priorities right now, what with war looming, the economy tanking and a host of other important issues topping medi-pot in the national consciousness.
Nonetheless, we'll continue to urge readers to contact their congressional representatives and tell them to work toward more sane policies on marijuana. Here are their numbers:
Randy “Duke Cunningham, 760-737-8438; Susan Davis 619-280-5353; Bob Filner, 619-422-5963; Darrell Issa, 760-599-5000.