A Local Group Pushes For Rules That Even The Government Can Follow

By Dion Markgraaff

Local people, who are tired of government inaction, are coming together to give San Diego the chance to set rules for dispensaries. The “Citizens for Safe Access Ordinance” is a proposed ballot initiative that would establish “regulations and procedures for medical cannabis centers.” –Clear rules will help patients, caregivers, landlords, and most importantly, law enforcement. This ordinance would establish guidelines for the operation of dispensaries and will assist in ending the current system of chaos, or, as one San Diego judge famously said after analyzing our current system, it is a “serpentine road map.”

This new ordinance aims to step-in where government leaders in San Diego have failed miserably. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 intended to “encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.” In recent years, there was some hope for new rules. Last year, the San Diego City Council formed the Medical Marijuana Task Force chaired by Professor Alex Kreit of Thomas Jefferson School of Law to make recommendations to the city council. Last year, the Task Force made its recommendations after much thought and deliberation, but the city council has failed to pass them. These recommendations are scheduled to be considered again this month.

A group has come forward in an attempt to ensure that rules will be established. The California Cannabis Coalition, which was founded by Craig Beresh last year, is the organization lobbying for these rules that were written by Jeffrey A. Lake, Esq. and Jessica C. McElfresh, Esq. The best thing about this legislation ordinance would be the establishment of guidelines for dispensaries. In addition, local law enforcement will be better equipped to be efficient in knowing what is permissible rather than going on government urban myths like: “it is federally legal – so cops don’t have to follow California law” and selling medical cannabis is illegal. This ordinance would legally and significantly help dispensaries because the District Attorney would be obligated to follow them as well, which is stated in HS 11362.7. If Bonnie Dumanis ignores this part of our law and does not follow the rules, this new ordinance will be used as evidence in the court process – using the rules as facts.

Another positive aspect is that the ordinance would give existing dispensaries the time to follow all the new rules if they have to make changes or move. The bad thing in these new rules is that they will limit some of the cannabis community’s rights. This may be the reality in getting the voters of San Diego to pass these laws. Sadly, these would infringe on rights we have now. For example, patients could not consume their medicine at the collective. This takes away an important right and is not very practical for patients, especially the patients who work there. Also, the new rules will require collectives to keep patient addresses on file. The biggest problem may be the provision that the “center shall obtain medical cannabis only from a location cultivated by the collective or from its members in accordance with applicable zoning regulations in the jurisdiction in which it is cultivated, or any requirements which may be imposed by the State.” Is this physically possible? This would take away a key right and probably force higher prices. Questioning where the medication comes from is a major tactic the government uses against collectives, especially in San Diego.

The California Cannabis Coalition will need help getting the signatures necessary to get this ordinance on the ballot. Additionally, this effort will be a good opportunity to continue to organize the cannabis community politically – hopefully further extending our strength. NUG Magazine supports people in our community who are trying to make life better for others. A sad part of this effort is that it will be a long time before San Diego citizens can vote and until then, the community will continue to suffer the results of terror and chaos from having no rules. Unless there is a special election, San Diego will have to wait until June of 2012 for a chance to set rules that our “leaders” have failed to make over the span of many years.

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