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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chronic City: Darkness In San Diego -- Attack On Medical Marijuana Moving Northward

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge San Diego medical Marijuana patient Donna Lambert was arrested in Operation Green Rx as part of the "crackdown." - LONGBEACH.GOV
  • longbeach.gov
  • San Diego medical Marijuana patient Donna Lambert was arrested in Operation Green Rx as part of the "crackdown."
First, we heard from ambitious, headline-seeking San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis that there are "no such things" as legal medical Marijuana dispensaries, despite state law. Now, even as a brutal crackdown on providers and patients is underway in San Diego County, officials from Los Angeles and other counties are being influenced by San Diego's anti-weed brigade to implement their hardline policies further north.

At a Long Beach City Council meeting yesterday, City Prosecutor Tom Reeves was still flushed with anti-ganja fervor as he told the council of attending a summit last week held by L.A. County DA Steve Cooley, where the message was that all dispensaries are illegal and will be prosecuted. What this means, he told the council, is that Long Beach can't or shouldn't try to regulate dispensaries.

click to enlarge Hardliner Long Beach prosecutor Tom Reeves: "You can't regulate illegal businesses." - LONGBEACH.GOV
  • longbeach.gov
  • Hardliner Long Beach prosecutor Tom Reeves: "You can't regulate illegal businesses."

"Over-the-counter sales are illegal," Reeves flatly stated. "So you're

not helping us any," Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga repied. "I'm

helping you a great deal," Reeves snapped. "I just told you that you can't regulate illegal businesses."


So

even as city governments in places like Long Beach honestly try to

grapple with the real issues surrounding regulation and recognition of

medical Marijuana dispensaries -- including possibilities like taxation,

on-site inspections and regulations similar to liquor stores or adult

businesses -- their "legal experts" and law enforcement officials are

giving them monumentally bad advice which seems to be in conflict with

state law.


Not surprisingly, since those

present couldn't agree on whether such a thing as a legal dispensary

even exists, the Long Beach council didn't find a solution after two

hours of discussion, and will continue wrestling with the issue at a

future meeting.


San Diego: Bitter Intransigence and Stubborn Refusal
click to enlarge San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis: arrest 'em all and let the courts sort it out - OFFICE OF BONNIE DUMANIS
  • Office of Bonnie Dumanis
  • San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis: arrest 'em all and let the courts sort it out
San Diego County officials have simply refused to abide by the will of the voters

and accept the state's medical Marijuana law. For 13 years now, since

the passage of Proposition 215 by voters in 1996, and even since the

law was clarified and expanded by the Legislature with SB 420 in 2004,

they've been fighting the practical implementation of legal medical

Marijuana.


The notoriously conservative San

Diego County Board of Commissioners is well known for its irrational

opposition to medical pot, even pursuing a quixotic and hopeless challenge to the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, losing the case in every court that heard it, every step of the way.


Last

week, the Board unanimously extended for 10 more months what had been a

45-day moratorium on new dispensaries in unincorporated areas of San

Diego County. After its court challenge to the law was defeated, the

Board began grudgingly issuing ID cards for medical Marijuana users. But in the meantime, DA Dumanis has sent her raiders to shut down

dispensaries and arrest their owners, creating a climate of fear and

confusion among patients countywide.


The

latest raids forced at least 14 dispensaries to close, and resulted in

at least 33 arrests. Dumanis assembled strike forces of San Diego

Police, San Diego County Sheriff's officers, DEA agents, and IRS agents

to descend on the dispensaries, make arrests, seize cash and pot, and

disrupt the local medical Marijuana distribution system. Many patients

who had come to depend on safe, legal access to the medicine

recommended by their doctors were left in the lurch.


"I

don't think Bonnie Dumanis has ever seen a 'legal dispensary' in 13

years," said Dion Markgraff, San Diego coordinator for Americans for

Safe Access (ASA). "She can't follow the plain language of the law, but

instead she holds some impossible standard that no one else knows

about. The DA is sending in cops who lied to doctors to get valid

recommendations, and then busting dispensaries that are operating

according to the law."


"The question in court is, 'Can one medical Marijuana patient help another and be exempt from sales charges?' " patient Donna Lambert, arrested back in February in the "Operation Green Rx" phase of Dumanis' crackdown, told the SF Weekly.

"The answer is a clear yes, but San Diego has not yet accepted that.

For a total of two quarter ounces of Marijuana, they did a SWAT-style

raid on my home, pointed assault rifles at me and tore my house apart,"

she said. Lambert is still fighting her case in court.


San

Diego attorney Patrick Dudley has represented people accused of illegal

use of medical Marijuana. "Most people would say that the last

battleground for medical Marijuana is San Diego," Dudley told NPR


Under

state law, medical Marijuana patients and primary caregivers may

"associate within the State of California in order collectively or

cooperatively to cultivate Marijuana for medical purposes" (§

11362.775). But according to Dudley, San Diego law enforcement has

shown no inclination to help dispensaries understand how to follow the

law. Their approach, he says, is to arrest first and ask questions

later.




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Steve Elliott

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