Leave it to the city of San Diego to ruin a promising romance before it has a chance to start.
On June 28, Beth, a pretty blonde in her mid-30s who makes her living as a hair stylist, accompanied a man whom she was just getting to know to the shoreline at the end of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. It was their first date.
Like some people do-especially people like Beth-they sparked up a joint. She and her friend had been there roughly 15 minutes, she says, when a pair of cops cast an entirely different mood on the moment.
As one might expect, officer S. Wahl and his partner considered what Beth and her friend were doing, well, wrong, so officer Wahl issued her a citation; she was the one holding the pot-about an eighth of an ounce, a misdemeanor in this state.
Beth, who asked that her last name be withheld from this story, tried to tell the officers that she was no average pot smoker-she's legal under the Prop. 15 medical marijuana law, and she had the doctor's recommendation that makes it official. But the cops wouldn't let her get the piece of paper out of the car. Tell it to the judge, they said. So she did, sort of. Beth showed up in court at 8 a.m. Aug. 14, just like the ticket told her to do, and waited with about 30 other minor transgressors while a small handful of justice system employees shuffled paper, wrote things down and walked to and fro with purpose.
It was about 8:50 when a public defender called her name and escorted her to a cubicle to learn about her case. She immediately produced the doctor's note. The lawyer read it and then hurried back into the courtroom.
He returned less than a minute later. “Have a seat inside, OK?” he told Beth. “Your case is dismissed.” Just like that. Easy as pie. Then she had to sit in the courtroom for another hour, waiting for Judge Richard Hanscom to bring the day's proceedings to order.
When Beth's time before the judge arrived, Hanscom was told that the prosecution had agreed to drop the charge, and the judge quickly sent Beth on her way. She started to turn away, but then she turned back. “Your honor,” she said with reverence, “can I have my medicine back?”
“I really don't know anything about that,” the judge said. She would have to go see the police about her... uh, medicine.
Of her two-hour court date, Beth said she would have preferred to use that time getting her 7-year-old daughter ready for school. She and some of San Diego's medical marijuana advocates believe these encounters can be avoided if the city would just hurry up and generate the medical pot ID cards the City Council approved back in February.
The city is working on finding a private company to create the cards, which, ideally, will sport photos of their carriers and bar codes that ensure legitimacy. Only one firm submitted a viable proposal for the project before the late-July deadline, and that proposal has yet to be fully evaluated.
In any case, once the card program is up and running, said one city official, the hope is that people like Beth take their medicine in private, rather than in public places-like the beach-where they might draw law enforcement attention.
As for Beth, since that night she hasn't seen the man with whom she shared a joint. After the police left her with the citation, at about 9 p.m., the guy abruptly ended the date. “He's like, ‘I gotta go-I gotta be at work early.'” Beth said. “The date lasted 45 minutes.”