Will the next victim of the City Hall-a-Go-Go soap opera be the proposed law-enforcement guidelines for medical marijuana use in San Diego?
Without a public show of support, medical pot activist Steve McWilliams definitely thinks so.
McWilliams told CityBeat that a city staffer pulled him aside this week to express concern that Mayor 1Goal's office has docketed the long-awaited guidelines-in essence the local road map to implementing voter-approved state Proposition 215-for City Council consideration next Tuesday, Sept. 16.
Prop. 215, which allows patients with cancer, AIDS and other medical conditions to grow and use marijuana if a physician recommends it, was supported by nearly 56 percent of voters in 1996 but has yet to be implemented due to conflicts with more draconian federal drug laws.
Why the concern now? "It was scheduled by the mayor at this critical time," McWilliams charges, "when the mayor feels like the vote in support of medical marijuana might be in jeopardy with the [three] council members indicted and perhaps fearful for their futures."
The mayor, a former judge, has consistently opposed allowing medical patients to use marijuana legally in San Diego, even though state law now permits it. He has claimed in the past that such use would open the door to unsavory types who would use the law as a ruse to sell the drug to recreational users.
Murphy, currently in a one-way race for re-election, was on the losing end of a 6-3 vote in February when the City Council approved language for the guidelines to be used by local law enforcement. The guidelines-as part of a two-year pilot program-include limits on the amount of marijuana that both patients (1 pound) and caregivers (2 pounds) can legally possess while banning outdoor pot cultivation and public toking.
The guidelines also limit medical marijuana use to patients of San Diego County physicians as well as restricting caregivers' patient loads to a maximum of four.
At the time, the 6-3 vote was hailed by local progressives who saw it as a sign that San Diego might be emerging from its puritanical shell and gave hope to those, like McWilliams, who insist that marijuana gives them relief from a host of chronic and often painful medical conditions, a contention the federal government has long resisted.
McWilliams, who is appealing a six-month prison term that U.S. District Judge James Fitzgerald handed down in April for cultivating marijuana at his Normal Heights home, has been San Diego's most visible medical-marijuana advocate, going so far as to hand out weed to medical patients last year in front of City Hall and staging demonstrations-clearly garnering the disdain of federal narcotics officers.
He noted that it is no coincidence that another medical marijuana advocate, Dion Markgraaff, and his roommate were scheduled for arraignment this week on charges of illegally growing and selling pot, despite the pair's contention that the drug was for use by chronically ill patients in San Diego County.
Police raided Markgraaff's College Area home last December.
"That prosecution right at this exact moment is not accidental," McWilliams said. "It's been arranged. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is trying to show that she's strongly supportive of U.S. drug laws. This whole thing is a sham."
So, the question is: Is the mayor that politically opportunistic? Would he use the predicament facing councilmembers Charles Lewis, Michael Zucchet and Ralphie Inzunza to exact a pound of flesh for an initiative that he vehemently opposes?
This, of course, could also feed into the conspiracy theorist maelstrom that is spinning about the three councilmen, who find themselves increasingly alone, as the people thought to be the original targets of the corruption investigation continue to bend over for the feds. Three Democrat councilmen, backed by labor, who support medical marijuana use-why not take them down rather than the developers and sports team owners who have greased many palms over the years on their way to fame and fortune?
Also, McWillams wonders how City Attorney Casey Gwinn, a fawning supporter of the mayor who once had mayoral aspirations, can pretend to be impartial as he prepares the legalistic language for the medical marijuana guidelines-while he's a partner in the San Diego Prevention Coalition, an organization that frequently and vociferously speaks out against medical marijuana use.
How the council members will vote was uncertain at press time, although a spokeswoman for Zucchet said the councilman "plans on remaining consistent on the issue of medical marijuana."
McWilliams remains concerned. "If the guidelines are not approved or if there's a tie vote, the whole issue [of medical marijuana] is dead in the water, and the guidelines are not going to be respected," he said. "We may lose everything that we worked so hard to get."
Added McWilliams ominously: "That would mean that the San Diego Police Department would have basically an open season on medical marijuana patients and nobody would be safe, especially as we contend that SDPD officers are acting as federal agents."
He said he hopes that if people feel strongly enough about moving ahead with an initiative that voters passed nearly seven-yes, seven!-years ago, maybe they'll attend the Sept. 16 council meeting and throw their support in the mayor's face.
There's been plenty of speculation about whether this council can do its job under a federal cloud of suspicion. It would be a lot easier if Mayor 1Goal stopped playing politics on issues where voters have already spoken.