City & Federal Governments’ Latest Attempt to Shut Down Dispensaries Met with Protest

Article & Photos By Esther Rubio-Sheffrey

SAN DIEGO – Approximately 200 medicinal marijuana advocates, patients, collective employees, young and old alike, gathered Tuesday afternoon to protest the latest attempt to shut down all of the collectives in San Diego by year’s end.

After gaining a victory in late July and stopping the city council from enacting their own ban, collectives, and this time property owners who lease to collectives, find themselves, once again, having to defend the legality of their existence. The city, however, has upped the ante and is working in collusion with the federal government.

Despite promises from the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009, that prosecutors would not initiate enforcement actions against collectives and patients adhering to state laws, California’s four U.S. Attorneys have taken matters into their own hands. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, whose recent court victories forced 12 collectives to close, is determined to sue every collective in the city for violating zoning laws and has been cooperating with U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, whose districts include Imperial and San Diego counties.

On Oct. 6th, Duffy issued approximately a dozen letters to property owners leasing to collectives, stating that the collectives are breaking federal law, and if the owners take no action to stop the “sale and/or distribution of marijuana” within 45 days, their properties could be seized. Since then, every other collective and property owner in San Diego has received a similar letter.

Some collectives will comply, but it is likely that, while most of the city is preoccupied with the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy, federal agents and local officials will raid collectives in neighborhoods throughout the city. The repercussions and potential cost to taxpayers, the loss of employment for hundreds of residents, and the lack of access for medicinal marijuana patients remains to be determined.

However, Duffy is not done flexing her federal muscle. In an Oct. 12th interview, Duffy stated that she plans to also go after TV, radio, and/or print outlets that feature marijuana advertising.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” Duffy said in an interview with California Watch and KQED. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

Advertisers can expect a notice of the federal law violation, and if necessary, Duffy said property seizures and prosecutions in civil and criminal courts would follow.

The Protest
The Patient Care Association (PCA), who represents over 60 collectives and over 1,400 employees, spread the word to their supporters and managed to attract over 200 people in front of the Federal Building downtown on Tuesday. Those who gathered for approximately two hours did so to voice their opinions against federal intervention, to urge voters to vote Goldsmith out of office, and to demand legal and safe access to medicinal marijuana.

PCA issued the following statement via Facebook prior to the rally and march:
“Let’s put our best face forward and be respectful. We need to be seen as patients, caregivers and California voters standing up for the Compassionate Use Act, passed by the MAJORITY of California Voters 15 years ago…Please do not smoke at the protest, do not carry signs with pictures of joints, do not be rude to the police who will escort us on the march route, this is medicine and California state law, do not let the media portray us as a stoner party!”

While a handful of attendees felt compelled to bring their young children, and all were respectful, an equal amount of people ignored the PCA request and chose to smoke marijuana. At least two television stations carried footage of that in their “pot protest” coverage yesterday evening. However, some of the patients I spoke with had some very compelling points for taking action.

Robert McFarlan was hit by a car while crossing the street in Clairemont in 1993 and has since been confined to a wheel chair. He is a marijuana patient of almost two years and uses it when the pharmaceuticals he regularly relies on do not work. “Are you kidding me?” he said, when asked why he felt compelled to attend the rally. “I am a revolutionary, born in the ‘60s.”

McFarlan has also been uploading live video stream of the Occupy SD movement and has supported their movement for several days. “It’s a beautiful thing; it is the seed of the revolution. If the generation that was born between 1980-1995 does not stand up to take their country back, there is going to be nothing for them in 20 years. Whether it is marijuana, unemployment, or anything, the feds have no right to step in and tell us how to run our state.”

If all the collectives close, McFarlan will not discuss where he will obtain his marijuana from, but does say that it is hypocritical of the government to ban it when they grow it themselves. Furthermore, as a former drug counselor, he does not understand how marijuana is criminalized when drugs like Ritalin are not only legal, but also prescribed to children.

Carolina Moreno, a mother of two and a patient with cancer in remission, is also an employee of the Cannabis Education Project. “Chemotherapy and radiation killed my appetite, and I need [marijuana] to be able to eat,” Moreno said. “I recently read that some doctors are doing research with lab mice that have cancer. They are injecting them with cannabis oil and it has been killing the cancer cells. This leads me to believe that cannabis can kill cancer if it was available for research [in the U.S.] We might even have a cure for cancer now.”

“It is frustrating for me. I had to go through a hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation, but if there were a possibility that in the future cannabis could be used to treat cancer, I would feel like there is a load off my back. That would mean future cancer patients will have an alternative, a different treatment and medication option. The hysterectomy alone is terrible. People should have the right to choose how they medicate,” she added, further elaborating that while she used marijuana recreationally when she was younger, she has matured. “Everyone, as adolescents, goes through that. Most people won’t deny having tried [marijuana], but now I have my kids, my family; I work. I go to school. I am a responsible person.”

Moreno, armed with a long list of facts, also calls marijuana the solution to our economic crisis. She insists that cannabis cannot continue to be portrayed as a bad thing, stating we need to question where the misconceptions come from and look at how the prison systems, the pharmaceutical companies, and even the cotton and paper industries, benefit from marijuana being illegal.

What Can You Do?
On Friday, Oct. 28th and Monday, Nov. 7th, organizers are planning additional rallies and protests beginning at noon at the Federal Building and ending at the Civic Center Plaza. If you cannot attend, but wish to voice your opinion to federal and local authorities, here is a list of phone numbers:

•President Obama: (202) 456-1111
•Attorney General Eric Holder: (202) 353-1555
•U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy: (619) 557-5610
•City Attorney Jan Goldsmith: (619) 236-6220

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