By Eugene Davidovich / Nug Mag / May 26, 2011
In April of this year, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that effectively denied safe access to thousands of patients in the city. If left as is, it would have negatively impacted the most vulnerable members of our community by cutting off access to their medicine.
As the ordinance is written, all locations where patients currently safely obtain their medicine, would be forced to shutter their doors and only a small handful would be allowed to open in far flung industrial areas of the City, only after coming into compliance with an onerous year-long conditional use permit process.
The City Council rather than considering amendments to the ordinance suggested by their own medical marijuana task force and thousands of concerned citizens who wrote letters as part of the City’s largest letter writing campaign, on April 12 approved the restrictions and ignored the unprecedented public opposition.
After the City Council’s ordinance took effect at the end of April and with only 30 days to circulate a petition to repeal the ordinance, a group of collective directors quickly organized and formed the Patient Care Association and Citizens for Patient Rights Political Action Committee. Comprised of over 50 local medical marijuana collectives, the association within days raised enough funds to hire the La Jolla Group, a professional signature gathering company, and undertook a massive effort to gather enough signatures to repeal the ordinance through a referendum process.
San Diego Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group, provided the association with direction and guidance on messaging as well as an alternative ordinance to propose to voters following the referendum. At the same time ASA’s legal department began to gear up for a lawsuit with the city and on April 28, sent a letter to the City urging them to ease up their restriction or face a challenge in court.
As announced by San Diego ASA on May 4th, the referendum signature drive was underway and in less than 30 days, the La Jolla Group as well as all the collectives involved, gathered over 40,000 signatures, proving yet again the medical marijuana community in San Diego to be a serious political force.
The signatures are expected to be turned in to the City Clerk’s office on Friday, May 26 and will effectively place on hold the overly restrictive ordinance passed by the council from becoming law in the City.
Once the Clerk’s office turns the signatures over to the County’s Registrar of Voters, the verification process will begin and as required by law must be completed within 30 days. If the registrar confirms there are enough valid signatures, the Council will be forced to make a decision; place their overly restrictive ordinance on the ballot for a vote of the people or repeal it at the next available council meeting.
If the City forces the referendum to a vote and decides against repealing the ordinance, depending on the date the signatures are determined valid by the Registrar of Voters, the City may have to call a special election costing millions, or instead place the ordinance on the June 2012 primary ballot for a vote.
As for the effort currently underway by Code Enforcement to shut the existing facilities down, according to the City Attorney’s office, the status quo will be maintained. Landlords will continue to be harassed, patients will continue to face threats of lawsuits and intimidation, and they City Attorney plans on continuing to wage their war on patients. Their official position remains unchanged; the facilities currently operating would still be doing so without a valid business license and with no zoning in the City’s municipal code to allow for their use.
The voting residents of San Diego overwhelmingly support safe and reliable access to medical cannabis for qualified patients in their neighborhood and are against the restrictions approved by the council as well as the effort to shut the existing facilities down. The San Diego community hopes the council will move forward with adopting the recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Task Force and amend the overly restrictive ordinance.
If the City refuses to respect the recommendations of their own task force and continues on the path to shut access down without providing a reasonable alternative, they will face continued litigation and the medical marijuana community plans on quickly moving forward with a voter initiative which would once and for all, create reasonable rules and clarity for patients in the City to follow.
For more information about the Citizens for Patient Rights PAC visit: www.citizens4patientrights.org
SD ASA’s May 4 Announcement about Referendum: http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2011/05/patient-care-association-of-california.html
ASA threatens to sue City of San Diego: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/San_Diego_Demand_Letter.pdf
City Council Medical Marijuana Ordinance: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/City_of_San_Diego_Ordinance.pdf
For the latest information on medical marijuana in San Diego visit: www.safeaccesssd.org