One of Democrat Bob Filner’s first acts in January as the newly-elected mayor of San Diego was to end the city’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. One of the first acts of acting Mayor Todd Gloria, after Filner was driven from office three weeks ago by a barrage of criticism for alleged sexual harassment, was to reinstate the crackdown.
San Diego, a conservative Republican stronghold despite Filner’s election, does not have an ordinance for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, although state voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 and authorized nonprofit cooperatives as dispensaries in 2004. Federal law still criminalizes possession and sale of the drug.
Amid the confusion and contradictions of local, state and federal law, dispensaries popped up around the city. The city council and Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican, finally passed a very restrictive ordinance in 2011, but voters mounted a petition drive that forced its repeal. Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities, in cooperation with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, were shutting down dispensaries.
Around 100 were shuttered during the two years before Filner was elected mayor in November 2012. Filner campaigned for mayor on a platform that included support for medical marijuana. He had a long record as a 10-term congressman of supporting an end to the nation’s sputtering drug war, and co-sponsored the failed States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in 2001.
Shortly after taking office, he lashed out at the “persecution” of marijuana advocates and suggested that pro-pot groups consider staging demonstrations to pressure the government. Goldsmith then informed Filner that as mayor he could halt the dispensary busts by ordering city officials to halt the municipal code enforcement, which he did.
But San Diego still didn’t have an ordinance governing what, if any, dispensaries could do business within city limits. Filner brought a proposal to the council in April of this year, but it was rejected out of hand. Instead of taking up Filner’s proposal, the city council tried resurrecting a version of the 2011 ordinance.
By July, Filner was embroiled in controversy stemming from allegations by at least 18 women that he had sexually harassed them, and his political initiatives were dead in the water. He resigned in August and council President Gloria became acting mayor.
In announcing last week that the San Diego Police Department and the city’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Office would once again be cracking down on pot shops, Gloria said a new proposed medical marijuana ordinance would be presented to the public soon. But for now, dispensaries are illegal everywhere in the city and the on-again, off-again crackdown is, for the time being, on again.
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