Pubdate: Mon, 19 Dec 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Group Proposes Own Regulations After Helping Block Previous SD

Medical marijuana collectives on Monday unveiled specifics of a
proposed ballot initiative that would regulate storefront operators
and generate additional revenue through a sales tax to the city of San

The 18-page ordinance, which had been foreshadowed for two weeks,
would create operating zones for dispensaries and levy a 2.5 percent
sales tax on their retail transactions. It also would impose a fee for
the city to recover its expenses, establish security measures and
hours of operation and mandate inspections and certification by a
third-party group.

"After waiting several years for the city of San Diego to enact a
reasonable ordinance to allow safe access, unfortunately the city
failed to do that," said Jessica McElfresh, an attorney who worked
with the Patient Care Association to draft the proposal. "We feel that
we have to move forward with the initiative process, although we do
intend to make another overture to City Council to try to persuade
them to pass this as a reasonable ordinance."

The proposal for the November ballot comes as local and federal
prosecutors continue their coordinated campaign to shut down medical
marijuana dispensaries across California.

Dozens of collectives have acquiesced since U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy
began mailing letters in October warning that marijuana sales were
illegal under federal law and landlords risked criminal prosecutions
and property seizures if they didn't close. City Attorney Jan
Goldsmith, citing the lack of local regulations, also has issued
letters and brought civil complaints against collectives that failed
to comply with his requests to shut down.

Opponents of the storefront operations contend that the dispensaries
have little regard for any regulations, including adhering to state
law, and were merely trying to protect and pad their own pocketbooks
in the name of patient access.

Scott Chipman, chairman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said he
was skeptical that collective operators would conform to all of the
rules in addition to health and safety laws requiring them to list all
ingredients in their products.

Chipman also said the proposal would do little to allay concerns about
marijuana landing in the hands of children. Still, he would not
speculate whether his or another group would spend money to formally
oppose the initiative.

"I can say we would certainly discourage San Diegans from signing
their names for an ordinance that is moot before it is enacted because
it violates federal law," Chipman said. "And we are going to continue
to encourage federal agencies to enforce federal law in San Diego."

Earlier this year, the same group pushing the initiative collected
enough signatures to successfully repeal a city ordinance that it
deemed too restrictive. They remain confident that the initiative
would qualify for the November ballot, McElfresh said.

"What people told us routinely is they want dispensaries to have to
obey operational requirements. We have done that," she said. "We have
also heard routinely that they want dispensaries to be located
reasonable distances from residences and areas where children
congregate. Done."

The proposal would require dispensaries to operate away from
residences and at least 600 feet from schools, playgrounds and other
areas where children gather. It spells out requirements for security,
sets operating hours from 7 a.m. to midnight and establishes rules for
their appearance.

Proponents of the measure may begin collecting signatures in about
three weeks. They will have six months to gather 62,057 valid
signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the
November 2012 ballot.

On another front, eight people on Monday filed a claim against the
city alleging physical and mental abuse and intentional infliction of
emotional distress stemming from their lack of safe, reliable access
to medical marijuana as provided by state law. The claim is a
precursor to a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are asking the city to
cease enforcement against the dispensaries until new regulations are
approved, their attorney Katherine Clifton said.

"But our hope with this case is to focus attention on the true victims
of this vengeful witch hunt," she said.

A spokeswoman for the City Attorney's Office did not respond to
requests for comment.

Randy Wall, a patient named in the claim, was one of two signatories
on the ballot initiative along with his mother, a registered nurse.

Collective representatives were again quick to concede that they had
no influence over the federal crackdown. However, they said residents
should have the option to approve common sense rules for medical
marijuana that satisfy them as well as the desires of patients and
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.