San Diego’s Marijuana Confusion Hits a New High

San Diego’s Marijuana Confusion Hits a New High

Photo by Sam Hodgson

A sheriff's deputy carries police tape outside the One on One Patients Association on Sixth Avenue in downtown San Diego.

I’d venture that no place in the country has a stranger relationship with marijuana than San Diego.

Consider this:

Scott Lewis on Politics LogoAlmost all the City Council members Monday began their comments about the mayor’s proposed medical marijuana regulations by saying HOW MUCH they supported access to the drug for people who need it.

Then they went on to basically say it had no place in the community and was a menace.

The biggest surprise was Councilwoman Marti Emerald.

She said that she now is representing a new district and therefore is going to be much more conservative about her approach to the issue.

The Democrat used to represent Tierrasanta, San Carlos, etc. Now she represents mostly City Heights and the tony villages of Kensington and Talmadge.

So she arguably went to a more liberal district. Unfortunately for advocates, medical marijuana storefronts are seen as a vice like liquor stores. And community activists in places like City Heights do not need more vice.

Except that residents don’t seem so spooked about cannabis. In 2010, (an election in which conservatives did quite well) a majority of voters in most of the city’s central urban neighborhoods supported legalizing marijuana outright — not just to help people with cancer, but for people who just wanted to smoke it.

 

 

Without Emerald, the mayor’s proposal was clearly DOA.

One of the people who spoke in favor of it Monday was this guy, Ken Cole (seen here at an earlier appearance).

Image courtesy of the city of San Diego.

 

Cole is about as good of a representative of the sector as possible. He runs the only marijuana collective that tried to stay open, and advertising, even after hundreds of his counterparts shut down.

Cole has cancer himself. He said his medical marijuana collective is registered as a not-for-profit. He pays taxes and tries to keep his books in order.

But on Tuesday, a day after he made an emotional plea to the council, the DEA raided his place, One on One on Sixth Avenue Downtown.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

You might think this protestor at the raid is correct:

Photo by Sam Hodgson

But you’d be wrong. At least, according to the federal government.

You see, Cole’s establishment wasn’t having problems with the city. In fact, Cole made a deal with the city.

A couple years ago, the city started cracking down on medical marijuana establishments. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith argued that the city had no zoning code that allowed them. Anywhere. And he won. He made the point then, however, that if the mayor — who controls the police and the city’s code enforcement — did not want to send him any more cases, he wouldn’t go out looking for them.

Then Mayor Bob Filner got into office and took him up on the deal. The police and code enforcement were told to lay off.

That got some of the dispensaries that the city had gone after a bit mad. If dispensaries like Cole’s were suddenly going to be left alone, then they had been treated unfairly. And their lawyers wanted money from the city for all the trouble.

Cole said he wouldn’t demand any money and the city agreed to drop its case with him.

The feds, and their assistants from the Sheriff’s Department, were not inclined to leave him alone.

At all.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

It was part of a raid on about 10 sites across the county.

Marijuana is still an illegal narcotic according to the federal government. What’s odd is that there appears to be some confusion about when medical marijuana is allowed and when it is not.

You see, the president has said it’s not a priority.

And other places have working medical marijuana facilities.

But what those other places are doing doesn’t matter to Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for San Diego. These raids and efforts are mostly her call.

File photo by Sam Hodgson

The DEA’s task force special agent told the U-T that Cole’s place was raided because it was just trying to make a buck.

“These clubs are not for compassion but for profit,” he said.

Now this thing keeps coming up. This profit argument. Duffy has brought this up before as well.

In other words, were they distributing the drug just for compassionate care, it would be OK.

BUT IT WOULDN’T BE OK.

I saw this strange distinction before and pressed the U.S. attorney on it. Was she saying, somehow, that there was a way to avoid her ire? Somehow prove you weren’t doing it for profit?

No, there was not.

It would be a mistake to interpret my comments as a softening of our position. I have made it clear many times that under federal law, marijuana is illegal, period. My reference to state law was intended to help explain that profit is one of many factors we consider when exercising our prosecutorial discretion.

For what it’s worth, Cole says he’s running a not-for-profit as compliant with state law as he can be.

“I’m not trying to make money. To say we’re not a not for profit is ludicrous. We have never hidden anything,” Cole told me.

He said he even pays his employees well. These guys, who were trying to digest the raid Tuesday:

Photo by Sam Hodgson

And so goes the marijuana confusion.

It’s legal but it’s not. We want to provide access to it, but we don’t. You can give it out compassionately and not for profit but actually you can’t.

It will only get weirder.

Thank you to Sam Hodgson for the photos of the raid.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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36 comments
Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

WELL PUT, Scott Lewis (and kudos to Sam Hodgson on the photos). San Diego City Council ignores history and enforces Federal Prohibition that the President says isn't a priority and many voters rejected in 2010 CA vote on legalization. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy wages jihad on patients and providers rather than corrupt defense contractors and banks. Fair fight, huh?

Marasmom
Marasmom

WELL PUT, Scott Lewis (and kudos to Sam Hodgson on the photos). San Diego City Council ignores history and enforces Federal Prohibition that the President says isn't a priority and many voters rejected in 2010 CA vote on legalization. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy wages jihad on patients and providers rather than corrupt defense contractors and banks. Fair fight, huh?

Jason Dalton
Jason Dalton subscriber

sooo sad that we still try and fight this plant. How in the hell is booze legal and pot not???? Just doesn't make sensi!!!

Jasonoceanbeach
Jasonoceanbeach

sooo sad that we still try and fight this plant. How in the hell is booze legal and pot not???? Just doesn't make sensi!!!

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

I also think it’s ironic that pot advocates try to legitimize the weed with the claim that it’s no more dangerous (maybe less) than booze or cigarettes, two perfectly legal, widely distributed products. Hell, it’s no more dangerous than arsenic, either.

toulon
toulon

I also think it’s ironic that pot advocates try to legitimize the weed with the claim that it’s no more dangerous (maybe less) than booze or cigarettes, two perfectly legal, widely distributed products. Hell, it’s no more dangerous than arsenic, either.

Dennis Rosche
Dennis Rosche subscriber

I'd like to know what the Feds & the SD Sherrif Dept are doing with all the medical records that they haul away in these raids. Any files on clients of these dispensaries are going to contain PHI, Protected Health Information, that is protected under HIPAA regulations. What do they plan to do with that information???

SDResident
SDResident

I'd like to know what the Feds & the SD Sherrif Dept are doing with all the medical records that they haul away in these raids. Any files on clients of these dispensaries are going to contain PHI, Protected Health Information, that is protected under HIPAA regulations. What do they plan to do with that information???

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Despite all the hype being drummed by the pro-dope crowd and local media types looking to hang a story on it, the situation regarding marijuana in San Diego is very clear, as it is in the rest of the country. Possession or sale of marijuana is AGAINST FEDERAL LAW. End of story. While state and local politicians (and some local editors) love to blow a lot of smoke on the subject, as long as its against the law, federal law enforcement agencies will continue to bust drug dealers, regardless of what they call themselves. Regardless of what dope promoters claim, unless they convince congress to repeal existing laws, they're just blabbering among themselves. And local media types are wasting ink writing about it.

Don Wood
Don Wood

Despite all the hype being drummed by the pro-dope crowd and local media types looking to hang a story on it, the situation regarding marijuana in San Diego is very clear, as it is in the rest of the country. Possession or sale of marijuana is AGAINST FEDERAL LAW. End of story. While state and local politicians (and some local editors) love to blow a lot of smoke on the subject, as long as its against the law, federal law enforcement agencies will continue to bust drug dealers, regardless of what they call themselves. Regardless of what dope promoters claim, unless they convince congress to repeal existing laws, they're just blabbering among themselves. And local media types are wasting ink writing about it.

DawnVG
DawnVG

The point is that Prop 19 WON in the college Area - the heart of Marti Emerald's new district. Therefore, her claim that her district is more conservative appears false.

DawnVG
DawnVG

Sully is absolutely wrong about the City Council meeting. I was there. The overwhelming majority of the room was in favor of Bob filner's medical marijuana guidelines. The speakers were about 2/3 in favor and 1/3 against. So no, the city council meeting audience makeup did not reflect any disapproval of the mayor's plan.

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

I never said that any of the victories were false. By comparing issues vs. candidates you're comparing apples to oranges which makes no sense. All I said was that due to the fact that many people who dislike gov't don't vote anymore that there are a significant number of people out there who could help to stop enforcement of bad laws (jury nullification). I've no idea where you got the idea that I thought that the elections were somehow false.

shawn1874
shawn1874

I never said that any of the victories were false. By comparing issues vs. candidates you're comparing apples to oranges which makes no sense. All I said was that due to the fact that many people who dislike gov't don't vote anymore that there are a significant number of people out there who could help to stop enforcement of bad laws (jury nullification). I've no idea where you got the idea that I thought that the elections were somehow false.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

But what do you really expect from stoners?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

But what do you really expect from stoners?

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

Personally, I think that nullification is the only hope for those that want MJ and Hemp legalized. It's too controversial politically to win at the federal level, but if enough of a percentage of people is in favor of legalization then in theory there would be enough votes on juries to prevent prosecution and conviction. People that are so fed up with gov't that that they don't vote anymore can still serve on juries. Therefore the prop 19 vote is not a true indication of the percentage of people that want to legalize.

shawn1874
shawn1874

Personally, I think that nullification is the only hope for those that want MJ and Hemp legalized. It's too controversial politically to win at the federal level, but if enough of a percentage of people is in favor of legalization then in theory there would be enough votes on juries to prevent prosecution and conviction. People that are so fed up with gov't that that they don't vote anymore can still serve on juries. Therefore the prop 19 vote is not a true indication of the percentage of people that want to legalize.

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

Sully you are just drawing an arbitrary line in the sand. An 18 year old can have cancer. Children can have cancer. In my experience I have seen that adults are just as likely as teens to try to get prescriptions for pain and other minor ailments. By the way, an 18 year old is technically an adult, and is old enough to be forced to serve in the military under the threat of imprisonment. The nuisance comment is purely opinion. I've been to similar hearings where it seemed about 50/50 for and against.

shawn1874
shawn1874

Sully you are just drawing an arbitrary line in the sand. An 18 year old can have cancer. Children can have cancer. In my experience I have seen that adults are just as likely as teens to try to get prescriptions for pain and other minor ailments. By the way, an 18 year old is technically an adult, and is old enough to be forced to serve in the military under the threat of imprisonment. The nuisance comment is purely opinion. I've been to similar hearings where it seemed about 50/50 for and against.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Not everyone is required to a charity, but medical pot dispensaries are required to be non-profit. Don't like it then fix it at the ballot box.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Not everyone is required to a charity, but medical pot dispensaries are required to be non-profit. Don't like it then fix it at the ballot box.

Jennifer Reiswig
Jennifer Reiswig subscribermember

I didn't realize that everyone in the medical industry was required to be a charity. Someone should tell that to Pfizer and CVS.

bmljenny
bmljenny

I didn't realize that everyone in the medical industry was required to be a charity. Someone should tell that to Pfizer and CVS.

joe vargo
joe vargo subscriber

Some people feel they can only win when they divide. Duffy has a history. The old tuff on crime script is just that, old. She's just wants to be on tv.

joev
joev

Some people feel they can only win when they divide. Duffy has a history. The old tuff on crime script is just that, old. She's just wants to be on tv.

richard brick
richard brick subscribermember

Yes,lets continue this prohibition on a plant, we all saw how well that worked on alcohol. People of this age look back on alcohol prohibition and most say what were we crazy to do such a thing. I'm wagering that in twenty years or less the next generation will look back and say the same thing, what were we crazy. In fact this whole "war on drugs" has been quite a success, hasn't it? How many young lives have been ruined by this war, how much tax money has been spent? All for what? Didn't prohibition teach us anything? Like, take out the profit and the gangsters will fold like a cheap suit. Regulate and tax and you can control it and collect a lot of taxes.

zollner
zollner

Yes,lets continue this prohibition on a plant, we all saw how well that worked on alcohol. People of this age look back on alcohol prohibition and most say what were we crazy to do such a thing. I'm wagering that in twenty years or less the next generation will look back and say the same thing, what were we crazy. In fact this whole "war on drugs" has been quite a success, hasn't it? How many young lives have been ruined by this war, how much tax money has been spent? All for what? Didn't prohibition teach us anything? Like, take out the profit and the gangsters will fold like a cheap suit. Regulate and tax and you can control it and collect a lot of taxes.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Personally I am all for legalizing every drug, but until the stuff is legalized on all levels the federal government has the right and duty to bust these drug dealers.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Personally I am all for legalizing every drug, but until the stuff is legalized on all levels the federal government has the right and duty to bust these drug dealers.

Kelly Abbott
Kelly Abbott contributormember

This saddens me. Thanks to Sam for showing up and taking photos. The images tell the story so well. Thanks to Scott for explaining the who the what and the why of it, such as it is, nonsensical and unjust. I hope this story gets spread far and wide.

kellyabbott
kellyabbott

This saddens me. Thanks to Sam for showing up and taking photos. The images tell the story so well. Thanks to Scott for explaining the who the what and the why of it, such as it is, nonsensical and unjust. I hope this story gets spread far and wide.

Carrie Schneider
Carrie Schneider subscribermember

A nonprofit is allowed to make a profit on goods (i.e. charge a customer more than costs, in order to run the business). In other words, the storefront, as a nonprofit, is not required to GIVE AWAY its product. It's a nonprofit because it is formed to benefit the collective good and does not have shareholders. I hope the U.S. Attorney realizes this diffference.

Carries
Carries

A nonprofit is allowed to make a profit on goods (i.e. charge a customer more than costs, in order to run the business). In other words, the storefront, as a nonprofit, is not required to GIVE AWAY its product. It's a nonprofit because it is formed to benefit the collective good and does not have shareholders. I hope the U.S. Attorney realizes this diffference.

Bill Paul
Bill Paul subscriber

So why are the feds only doing this in CA? They seem to have escalated swat terror tactics here as a last ditch effort to thwart public will and keep their lucrative thiefdom going. Shame on our local officials and law enforcement agencies for supporting this outrageous police state action in direct violation of the public will.

SirVivor
SirVivor

So why are the feds only doing this in CA? They seem to have escalated swat terror tactics here as a last ditch effort to thwart public will and keep their lucrative thiefdom going. Shame on our local officials and law enforcement agencies for supporting this outrageous police state action in direct violation of the public will.