By: Rocky Neptun
A seemingly dysfunctional San Diego City Council voted 7 to 1 on January 5, to stall many more months deciding the mere basics of regulating medical marijuana dispensaries by rejecting the modest recommendations of its own task force.
The transparency of its motives in setting up the task force rather than having staff prepare ordinances, shows its smoke and mirrors approach to the issue – pretend to do something, while an organizing effort of the usual NIMBY suspects gets under way. Someone named Grandma posted a right-on explanation, “Fork tongued politicians,” she wrote, “I may be old but I know bait and switch.” While Fred Williams pointed out, “This is not leadership…its cowardice.”
With five of the councilpersons seeking re-election or election to another office and the two brain-dead tokens of identity politics blabbering along, (at least Councilman Carl DeMaio is honest in his usual right-wing, knee-jerk opposition) the Council showed that it seems too scared to help the many citizens who are in pain and need a safe, legal place to obtain medical marijuana which was approved by California voters through Proposition215.
The vote, which sent the plain and simple recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Task Force, to the Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee, is a ploy to allow organized resistance to the use of medical marijuana to focus on preventing the logistics of providing it for those in need by using zoning ordinances and building codes as weapons, like those used against youth arcades and adult entertainment. Tellingly, included in that vote was a requirement that local Planning Groups weigh in on the discussion; which is kind of like asking the Catholic Diocese where the abortion clinics should be located and the details of the permit ok process. The city’s half-dozen planning groups, for the most part, are made up of property owners and businesspersons wedded to land values, NIMBY’s all. (The City Heights Area Planning Committee where I was elected in 2001 was run by real estate interests.)
Now, a deceitful City Council and its big lie about wanting to really develop a comprehensive policy on medical marijuana use could laughingly be passed on as politics as usual if it were not for the fact that many innocent San Diegans are being persecuted and prosecuted by an ambitious, despotic District Attorney.
Bonnie Dumanis; Republican Party ideologue, personal tyrant, part crook (see my book, San Diego: 1st City of Empire) has stepped in where a fearful City Council has failed to act and has been busting legal, legitimate users and dispensers of medical marijuana. Using her prosecutional power to implement public policy in an attempt to appear tough on crime, she steps over the ruined lives, broken families and lost jobs of ill people who tried to follow the law as best they know how. Like a local version of former despot J.Edgar Hoover, without the secret dress, Dumanis seems to bully the Council by creating an illusion of crime around medical marijuana by selective prosecution and outright lies about the defendants, thus creating a trap for any politician who supports upholding California law allowing personal medical use of cannabis.
Buried in January 5th’s cowardly Council action was a quiet removal of any language calling for an ordinance to be drafted regulating the dispensaries. The hard-working 11-member Task Force on Medical Marijuana, established by the Council in September, and co-chaired by my friend and former Council candidate Stephen Whitburn, labored to bring before the Council a set of common sense recommendations on basic regulations such as dispensaries had to be more than 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, libraries, areas where children frequent and barred from being within 500 feet of one another. Also, the storefronts would have had to hire security and obtain appropriate land-use permits as well as limit the hours they are open and operate as non-profits. These fairly small recommendations from the Task Force were a natural process of the thinking of its members, mostly business persons, clergy, former police officers and professionals, rather than actual providers or patients.
However, one member of the task force, Mark Robert Bluemel, a San Diego attorney saw the matter clearly. He said the District Attorney’s misinterpretation of state law “has cruelly criminalized innocent medical marijuana users who not only suffer maladies but now face arrest, detention and federal charges.”
In early summer, the San Diego Renters Union proposed to the City Council that it find some statesmanship on this issue by setting up a permanent San Diego Medical Marijuana Regulatory Board, which would oversee the operation of the dispensaries including the cost, quality, personnel and non-profitability of the coops and cooperatives. The Renters Union suggested that if the providing process was taken out of individual hands and become a volunteer effort on the part of the organized group of patients, overseen by the city, then the District Attorney could not attack them on an individual basis as she has in the past.
While Councilwoman Fry supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes, her timidity reflects an interest in running for the County Board of Supervisors. “The goal here is to put in some guidelines that actually make sense and people can understand what the rules are,” she said “the guidelines put forward by the state are not clear.” Yet, even she did not support the humble suggestions of the task force.
However, the average citizens in San Diego are beginning to have their say on the matter. In a clear rebuke to the D.A. a jury last week found Jovan Christian Jackson, 31, not guilty of five charges of possessing and selling marijuana illegally from a medical marijuana dispensary in Kearney Mesa called Answerdam Alternative Care.
Jackson’s attorney, Lance Rogers, successfully showed the jury that the collective operated legally and professionally. He said members of the collective were asked to show a valid doctor’s recommendation before obtaining any marijuana and sign an agreement that they abide by the collective’s rules.
A San Diego police detective testified that he lied to a doctor, used a false ID and fraudulently signed a contract/agreement with the collective to make two buys in June and July 2008. Now, trying to find out who set up this ridiculous entrapment has been difficult. Steve Walter, the assistant chief of the narcotics office in the D.A.’s office agreed to talk to me and then backed out (could it be because Bonnie Dumanis has appeared on my annual list of San Diego piss-ants 4 years in a row?). Captain Miguel Rosario of the SDPD’s vice squad originally agreed to an interview about the marijuana busts but when I e-mailed him a list of questions about the D.A.’s involvement, he quickly canceled.
What we Can Do to Help Our Fellow San Diegans in Pain
1. Call, write or e-mail your Council person and demand that quite hiding from the issue and develop ordinances that protect the rights and access of legal users of medical marijuana.
2. Contact the District Attorney’s office and insist that this blatant political use of her office to persecute and prosecute legitimate medical marijuana users stop.
3. Contact San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and suggest that department manpower spent lying to doctors, falsifying documents, and infiltrating professional co-ops and collectives should cease – scarce funds could better be used to fight real crime against persons and property.