San Diego surrenders its war on medical marijuana

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner today declared an end to the city's legal war on medical pot, ordering civil prosecutors to "stop the crackdown on marijuana dispensaries."

Jeff Chiu / AP / File
Harborside Health Center employee Gerard Barber stands behind medical marijuana clone plants at the dispensary in Oakland, Calif., in this 2011 file photo. In San Diego, the mayor has called off the city's war on medical marijuana dispensaries.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner declared an end on Thursday to the city's legal war on medical pot with a letter to city authorities ordering civil prosecutors to "stop the crackdown on marijuana dispensaries."

Filner, a Democrat who was sworn in Dec. 1, said in the letter sent to the police chief, city attorney and the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance Department that such shops could still be scrutinized for other code violations like any other business.

"Until we have a new set of regulations for medical marijuana distribution, I have asked the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department and the Police Department to temporarily halt all prosecutions of city zoning code violations when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries," Filner said in a statement.

He added that he plans to bring a proposed ordinance on the matter to the city council soon to regulate marijuana dispensaries to close a regulatory gap that had allowed the shops to be prosecuted on zoning violations.

The announcement signals a sea change in dispensary prosecutions in California's second largest city, with a population of 1.3 million. In 2011, the city attorney launched code enforcement action lawsuits against more than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries and shut most of them down.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith responded to Filner's call for an end to the prosecutions in a letter that said, "We will, of course, comply with that direction."

The move comes amid a growing federal-state battle over marijuana that intensified when states in the U.S. West and Northeast liberalized medical pot laws in recent years, setting the stage for voters in Colorado and Washington in November to approve legalizing recreational use of the drug as well.

The federal government holds that marijuana is an illegal drug liable to be abused and has cracked down on medical marijuana operations in California and other states where it is legal.

San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy sent a letter in August to the city of Del Mar warning that even city employees who "conduct activities mandated" by a proposed Del Mar medical marijuana ordinance were not immune from prosecution.

Duffy was traveling out of the district on Thursday and was unable to respond to media inquiries, her staff said.

Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco, have sought to add zoning rules that allows such shops. In October, the city of Oakland sued the federal government to block U.S. authorities from closing down a prominent medical marijuana dispensary that is featured on a reality television show.

Eugene Davidovich, the spokesman for the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, applauded the mayor's move to end targeted prosecutions.

"I'm so hopeful that this is the end to these lawsuits and it will create a path to regulation of shops for the thousands of people who rely on this medicine," Davidovich said.

(Editing By Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.