Filner attacks Goldsmith over MMJ, pledges to testify in prosecutions

January 08, 2013

Dave Maass, San Diego City Beat

Where to begin without burying the lede? Mayor Bob Filner's sensational promises? His surprising disregard for the city attorney? His over-the-top optimism? 

How about with a quote?: 

"When they wrote the strong-mayor form of government, they weren't thinking about me," Filner told the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access last night.  

Filner was on fire at the La Jolla Brew House, where he met with medical-marijuana activists for the first time since taking office. He couldn't have been more incendiary if he'd come equipped with a flamethrower and swished to and fro, lighting pipes and bongs while crying out, "Toke deep, my friends, Ras Bobby is here!"

That's a stretched simile, sure, but not wholly hyperbolic. Filner fired out promises more rapidly than the medical-marijuana patients could process them. 

It had been a long, dramatic afternoon and evening for the new, liberal mayor. Earlier, during the council session, he'd engaged in a public spat with City Council President Todd Gloria over SANDAG appointments. Then he appeared at a meeting of the Hillcrest Town Council, where he discussed Uptowny issues. After that, he booked it north to La Jolla, where he received a rock-star reception from a packed house. Or at least that's how it looked and sounded from the three streaming cameras. 

He began by giving credit to the advocates for their work in his election; the medical-marijuana community was among the first to get behind his candidacy. You'd see his signs in the windows of collectives—that is, until the city and the feds launched campaigns to shut them all down. 

Filner outlined a three-prong strategy for bringing back collectives to San Diego. 

1. Filner said that with the community's help, he will get an ordinance drawn up and to the council. He suggested this will happen in a few weeks and that he believes he has a five-vote majority lined up. 

2. He will direct City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to stop going after medical-marijuana collectives. 

3. Filner promised to personally lobby the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House to address the issue under federal law. 

The first one seems a little ambitious, but it's the second one that seems the most controversial. Goldsmith has not been as involved in criminal prosecutions related to medical marijuana as have U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Although Goldsmith has indicated some sympathy for the medical-marijuana community, he has aggressively used the civil court process to shut down local dispensaries

"The city attorney has not beenwhat shall I say?very helpful," Filner said. "He has not accepted the fact that he is the attorney and the city is the client, and we're going to try to find, within the context of the law, which you're going to help me write, that we also direct him not to engage in the kind of prosecution andwhat shall I say?"

"Persecution!" someone from the crowd cried. 

"—Persecution that he has engaged in," Filner continued. A minute or so later, Filner began to suggest he could "intimidate" Goldsmith, whom he described as a "little guy," before trailing off. 

As lawyers publicly introduced Filner to medical-marijuana clients in criminal cases, Filner interrupted with an especially bold promise: He said he would testify on behalf of defendants in court, ideally coinciding with massive demonstrations. 

"I'm not afraid to come in there and stand by your side," Filner said. "You all understand, I'm just in that situation as another citizen. I can't tell them what to do, but I think that the public has to understand what's going on. The press will cover if it I'm there, and we've got to treat it as an educational thing and maybe the D.A. and others will respond to some of the political pressure." 

Filner emphasized throughout the talk that he depends on the engagement of the medical-marijuana community—and not just in terms of lobbying council members for the forthcoming ordinance. They need to drum up support from groups that are not traditionally supportive of medical marijuana, he said.  

"We're going to have to do it like a political campaign," Filner said. "You're going to have to go to PTAs and Rotary Clubs and church groups. You're going to have to do it, and I think the humanitarian concern that we should all feel for those people who are in pain should prevail."

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