Medical Marijuana Advocates Threaten to Sue if San Diego Fails to Amend Flawed Ordinance

April 28, 2011
San Diego, CA -- Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) threatened to file suit against the City of San Diego today if it doesn't amend a recent ordinance that patient advocates are calling a de facto ban on local distribution facilities. ASA argued in a letter sent to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that the ordinance violates due process rights of medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives by forcing them to shut down in 30 days, leaving virtually no options for relocation.

Unless the city can "ease the restrictions on medical marijuana collectives, so that qualified patients can obtain the medicine they need," the letter authored by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said that the organization and its patient base would be compelled to seek such remedies in court. The letter suggested that the San Diego City Council amend its ordinance to allow "medical marijuana collectives to operate in most commercial and all industrial zones" and increase "the period to obtain a conditional use permit to one year."

The city council passed its ordinance on April 12th after months of feedback from hundreds of patients and experts. Virtually all of the requests for changes, including many from its own city-commissioned medical marijuana task force, were ignored. Advocates launched one of the largest letter-writing campaigns in the city's history, resulting in thousands of letters being sent to city council members and the mayor. The ordinance recently became law without the signature of Mayor Jerry Sanders.

San Diego has a long history of hostility toward medical marijuana. In 2006, the county sued the state over having to implement the ID Card program, mandatory under the Medical Marijuana Program Act passed in 2003. The county, which took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost, now provides ID cards to thousands of qualified patients. Each year since 2005, San Diego medical marijuana providers have endured numerous aggressive federal raids carried out in conjunction with local law enforcement.

After a series of DEA-led raids in September 2009, one month prior to the now-famous Justice Department memo, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis prosecuted two patients, both of whom were acquitted by juries. One of those patients, Jovan Jackson, was tried a second time and convicted as a result of being denied a medical defense. ASA, which argued against the denial of Jackson's defense at trial, is currently appealing his conviction.

Further information:
ASA threatens to sue City of San Diego: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/San_Diego_Demand_Letter.pdf
San Diego medical marijuana ordinance: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/City_of_San_Diego_Ordinance.pdf

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