In April, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that would have shut down all establishments dispensing marijuana for medicinal purposes citywide and set up a process for them to reopen under a new set of restrictions.
The law went too far. It would have quarantined these marijuana cooperatives in remote little islands of industrial property, away from easily accessible community commercial centers, making it difficult for ailing patients to get the relief that marijuana provides them. Additionally, the new permitting process would likely have been lengthy, unnecessarily shutting down access to cooperatives completely for many months and maybe a year or more. Even then, thanks to extremely restrictive location rules, very few cooperatives would have been allowed to exist.
Advocates for accessible medicinal marijuana launched a signature-gathering campaign to qualify a ballot measure aimed at overturning the ordinance and managed to get more than enough valid names on their petitions. Faced with a costly election—potentially $1 million—that the city could lose, the City Council responded by voting 6-2 to repeal its ordinance.
In our view, that was the right decision; after all, we opposed the ordinance in the first place.
So, now what?
San Diegans are back to square one, a legally blurry place where there are no clear rules for how people can provide or obtain high-quality marijuana for medicinal purposes without fear of being cited by city code-compliance officers or raided by local police or federal agents—a danger that will become a virtual certainty if a Republican defeats President Obama in November 2012. (Federal law continues to rank cannabis right up there among the most dangerous illicit drugs, but after being elected, Obama told the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop raiding medi-pot cooperatives.)
The City Council must now revisit the recommendations of its own Medical Marijuana Task Force, which came up with far more reasonable proposed rules that were still pretty restrictive, such as the requirement that dispensaries be no less than 1,000 feet away from schools, playgrounds, libraries, childcare facilities and youth facilities and no less than 500 feet away from other dispensaries. If these cooperatives are carefully regulated and monitored, we see no reason for them to be banned within 1,000 feet of where kids congregate—they don't attract pedophiles, for crying out loud.
Legalizing marijuana would be our choice of paths out of this mess.
But as long as marijuana is illegal for recreational use, the point is to make sure those dispensing it are doing so under the spirit of Proposition 215, which made it legal for patients to use pot as medicine but didn't set up how they would get it. When he was California's attorney general, Jerry Brown stepped in and developed a set of guidelines aimed at cultivation and delivery. Generally speaking, cooperatives must be entities that establish a genuine relationship between patient and caregiver, and they mustn't be profit-driven operations that are fronts for recreational-weed trafficking.
In any case, whatever the City Council does must satisfy medi-pot advocates, who've demonstrated their power to organize and throw their weight around.
CityBeat wins three national awards
This past weekend in New Orleans, at the annual convention of the Association of alternative Newsweeklies, we learned that CityBeat won three awards for reporting and writing amid tough national competition.
Staff writer Dave Maass won second place in the News Story (Short Form) category, for his stories “Lab rats,” “The snitch is back” and “Zapf dingbats.” There were 21 entries in that category. Arts editor Kinsee Morlan won third place in the Arts Feature category, for her story “For the record.” There were 53 entries. And associate editor Kelly Davis won honorable mention (essentially fourth place) in the News Story (Long Form) category, for her story “The unintended consequence.” There were 66 entries in that category. All awards were in a division of papers with circulations of less than 50,000.
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