Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

Earlier this year, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance aimed at regulating the activities of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Marijuana cooperatives responded by collecting enough signatures to force the issue to a costly repeal referendum.

The council then repealed its own regulation rather than put it to a vote, citing the cost to taxpayers.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has cracked down on the collectives, saying they aren’t following local zoning rules. Now the two sides are preparing for a legal battle over the issue.

As part of our continuing surveys of the city’s declared mayoral candidates, we asked them what they think the city should do about medical marijuana. Here’s what they had to say:

Carl DeMaio, city councilman: California voters have made Medical Marijuana legal throughout the state. My mother battled the pain of bone cancer, so I have an appreciation for those that feel the need to use medical marijuana for legitimate purposes.

That said, the legislation proposed by the city did not contain safeguards, provided for no oversight, and permitted far too many dispensaries to operate in our neighborhoods. As such, I voted against the legislation and for its repeal once the referendum qualified.

To implement this state law, I prefer a highly limited zoning and permit process combined with aggressive oversight to ensure that this well-intentioned law is not being abused to provide access to recreational drugs.

I am hopeful that the council will come to an agreement on tough, common-sense regulations on marijuana dispensaries, and if I am elected mayor I will strictly enforce whatever regulations the law has in place on these operations.

Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney: I have always been on the record with my support for the legal, legitimate use of doctor-recommended marijuana. I’ve seen first-hand how it eases the pain of serious illness and disease. At the same time, I don’t support the illegal drug dealers who hide behind the compassionate spirit of the law and jeopardize public safety in our neighborhoods.

Being mayor is about bringing people together, establishing a vision, and working together towards a solution. As mayor, I will work with the U.S. Attorney, district attorney, City Council and city attorney to advance the conversation with business leaders, community groups, patients’ right organizations and other stakeholders with the aim of crafting clear laws and guidelines that will allow legitimate patients access to medical marijuana, while also protecting our neighborhoods.

Bob Filner, congressman: Filner failed to respond, though his campaign spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the question.

Nathan Fletcher, assemblyman: California voters approved Prop. 215 permitting medicinal use of marijuana. But Prop. 215 left it to local authorities to determine how to regulate distribution. Until recently, the city ignored its responsibility to regulate, and the result was a profusion of “dispensaries” in residential neighborhoods, next to schools and in other inappropriate locations. The city has a responsibility to ensure dispensaries comply with state law and don’t negatively impact residential neighborhoods or other incompatible uses.

Spending $1 million on a citywide vote would have been a waste of money. The city should have provided leadership to bring advocates on both sides of this issue together on a plan that avoided the need for a referendum.

As long as dispensaries are permitted under state law, the city should have a plan to regulate them.

David Cardon, real estate broker: Let me first begin with number one. As a candidate for mayor of the city of San Diego, I believe medical marijuana should be regulated sensibly. Secondly, I would not have put the challenge to a referendum vote. Thirdly, I do not have any plans for medical marijuana, but will always support the will of the people. Finally, marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to operate in the city as long as they are in compliance with state laws. Having said all that our history here in the United States especially in California leads me to believe that we are on course to full legalization. Up until The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, cannabis was widely used. Regulation continued on with the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In 1977, California was spending $35 to $100 million dollars annually on fighting marijuana until it cut spending resulting in a 74 percent decrease in budget spending on the issue. On November 5, 1996 Prop. 215 passes by 55.58 percent of the vote. California Medical Marijuana Program Senate Bill 420 is enacted and San Bernardino and San Diego refuse but are rebuffed by the California Supreme Court. In the case of the City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of California, The Court of Appeals ruled “(b)ecause the act is strictly a federal offense, the state has ‘no power to punish…(it)…as such.” In March of 2009 the federal government relaxes enforcement in California, and on May 18, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear San Diego County v. California questioning the validity of the state’s medical marijuana laws. On October 1, 2010, California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs SB1449 written by (D) Mark Leno of San Francisco. Proposition 19 fails and now we will have RCPA 2012 Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 on the ballot. As you can see the debate over the legalization over marijuana is one that the people of the State of California will have to decide on.

Hud Collins, trial attorney: Fifteen years ago the people of California passed a ballot measure allowing medical marijuana; in this country and in the city we run by the rule of law. We need open access for all the patients, while protecting the communities and the people. Full regulation must be adopted (similar to the regulations adopted by the Marijuana Task Force) and the ability to tax it in order to offset the financial emergency/crisis. As mentioned before the City Council a few weeks ago, the use of drug czar will help to coordinate with the police, etc., communities and the various dispensaries. Proper leadership requires full implementation; with no referendum! It must go on the City Council agenda immediately with full access for the patients (including in all commercial areas). It’s time that this city gets ahead of the curve, rather than being behind all the time! The nonsense by our local government has to end. Again, with a drug czar, the full implementation, coordination and a monitoring of medical marijuana is necessary. The ability to react quickly to any complaint or situation regarding medical marijuana can be handled by this czar. The most important thing is to have access for the patient’s, protection of the communities and proper regulations/and enforcement for this sensitive and important subject.

Loch David Crane, magician and retired teacher: As a candidate for mayor of San Diego and the only medical marijuana patient running, I believe medical marijuana should be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration like alcohol, largely restricted adults over 21. I would require a patient under 21 to get two doctors’ approvals before receiving a prescription, and have special under-21 youth dispensaries. We need a tamper proof ID with an 800 number for 24-hour verification. Police should chase illegal aliens, not medical patients! We need to control our patients and dispensaries to show credibility and control before the public.

Subscribe to the Morning Report.

NO – I think we’ve already had several referendums that prove Californians, and San Diegans, want and deserve medical marijuana NOW.

The county has wasted years of patients’ time, making them live longer in pain. Such ignorance and lack of legislation resulted in the suicide of Steven McWilliams. San Diegans HAVE legal access NOW, which is a right denied in Oceanside and elsewhere.

My plans for medical marijuana include reasonable regulation and taxation, which could generate billions in taxes, provide local jobs, remove the largest product from the Mexican drug cartels’ menu, and be the green gateway to hemp’s industrial uses. As a legal patient I will seek to redirect the city attorney to become a citizen’s attorney — working to lower your gas prices, insurance, healthcare, water, and utility rates. Then she will be told to protect medical Marijuana patients in pain, and stop harassing dispensaries. She needs to prosecute more murderers, rapists, and illegal aliens – not medical patients. I’m running for mayor because it’s time to change the water in the bong at City Hall.

Marijuana dispensaries should be welcomed in the City, as any other pain reliever or physician. I earlier spoke to the City Council (on YouTube), urging their vote. The 600-foot limit (from schools, parks, etc.) is fairer than the 1,000-foot limit. We also need clear medical advice for a product priced like gold: tell us which is the best medicine and dosage for back pain, depression, neuropathy, AIDS, cancer, or specific diseases? We should write a diagnostic manual.

Steve Greenwald, compassionate physician, businessman, and civic activist: As a medical student 44 years ago I studied marijuana in the British Journal of Medicine of 1923. Marijuana should be decriminalized and taxed like cigarettes and alcohol…should be sold in any commercial zone excepting within 600 feet of a school of at least 100 students K through 12…to citizens over age 18. The efficacy of THC is in the article from CMAJ Oct. 2010 from McGill University in the treatment of neuropathic pain concluding that it improves the quality of life; improves sleep and decreases pain perception. This was a double blind prospective scientific study. The state of Colorado taxes marijuana. We should do the same.

Rob Harter, furniture store owner: Clearly there is a use for medical marijuana; cancer patients have found significant relief in many areas. This has been very well documented. However marijuana is a widespread recreational drug and many of the dispensaries cater to recreational users. Being a designer I always use my design skills quickly and methodically to enact ideas that will best serve San Diego. I think we should designate an area in downtown, call it little Amsterdam and only allow marijuana dispensaries in this area. They can be easily regulated, would be a great tourist destination, and the city can make sure that taxes are being paid to our great city. Right now I believe that dispensaries are little sleazy. But as always education is my prime goal. We need to talk about drugs in school and make sure children know the pitfalls of marijuana use, which there are many. If we are worried about an obese America more pot smokers will not help that statistic. I personally feel all drugs should be legalized and education should adopt massive methods to keep children from using and abusing drugs and alcohol. Legalization would in effect put an end to the horrible murderous cartel side which is now a part of any drug story. Our prisons are filled with drug users. I have a mantra that I actually remember telling my mother many years ago. “Just because he uses cocaine does not mean he is a bad person.” People use drugs because they are unhappy and not whole. None ever gets positive results in life due to taking drugs. The question for me is not how, when and where to use drugs but rather how do we get children’s to not want to use. The answer is love. More love in schools, more love on TV and more love at home. Thank you for listening.

Tobiah Pettus, unemployed: I believe these medical marijuana questions are stemming from Christopher Cadelago’s recent article in the Union Tribune entitled, “City Attorney: Marijuana Collectives Must Close ‘Immediately’”. Mr. Cadelago stated that, “The City Attorney’s Office last week reiterated its stance that every medical marijuana collective in the city of San Diego is violating local zoning laws and therefore must shut down immediately.” The article also stated that there are already 187 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. The issue is that, “medical marijuana dispensaries are not a permitted use within any zone in the city of San Diego,” … “Therefore, all medical marijuana dispensaries operating within the City of San Diego are in violation of the law and must cease operating immediately.” This is because Developmental Services says that medical marijuana doesn’t fit in any of the city’s zoning ordinances and the city attorney is enforcing those zoning laws.

This situation points to bigger problems in San Diego. To build something, you have to have a building permit, even for just a tenant improvement. So, how were 187 building permits approved, the facilities built, and then suddenly deemed illegal by the very Department that approved them and oversaw their construction? Also note, these businesses are legal under state law.

Once again, I see Developmental Services standing in the way of our city’s growth and job creation. The red tape will be cut. Change, in Developmental Services, is the number one thing that can easily be done to drive San Diego’s economy. Building permits should be extremely affordable and they should NOT take one year to issue! In contrast, try four to six weeks to rubber stamp a set of plans in quickly growing neighboring cities!

Medical marijuana is a dead city issue. It is legal under California law and should be regulated through taxation. It should not be put to a referendum vote until such time as California law changes. As mayor of San Diego, it will be my duty to uphold California law. Marijuana dispensaries should be taxed, but must be allowed in San Diego, under California’s law, not ours.

Scott Wilson, businessman: I am all for legalizing marijuana, and taxing it. However, before we implement the freedom to ingest/smoke marijuana at will, we need a plan for monitoring its use (for example, to avoid driving while high, coming to work while high, etc.)

As a business owner and concerned citizen, I believe we need an efficient way to test employees to ensure they are not at work while under the influence of this drug. I am naturally concerned about employees at my business arriving in a drug-affected state, making them unfit for work. Further, law enforcement needs to naturally be concerned with the use of a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. We need some form of test with a quick response time for both businesses and law enforcement.

I’ve worked in the hospice industry in the past. I believe medical marijuana is a necessity in many cases. For example, people with terminal illnesses and severe depression have issues should qualify them for the use of this drug. Medical marijuana should be easily available to people in these rare cases. However, I have witnessed cases such as individuals with minor injuries (such as an ingrown toenail) asking for a medical marijuana. This is clearly abusing the system instead of reserving it for those that need it most.

Three other declared contestants, Toby Lewandoski, Bradley Slavens and Sharam Adhami, did not respond.

Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at and 619.550.5671.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.