The Promise: To establish new rules to permit dispensaries within city boundaries.

Determination: Working On It

Medical marijuana advocates were excited to see Mayor Bob Filner begin to deliver on his promise to make it easier for patients to fill their prescriptions.

They cheered as he effectively halted prosecutions against marijuana dispensaries. That spirit was slightly tempered this week after the City Council voted to continue civil actions.

Still, Filner looks to be making progress on his medical marijuana pledge, one of more than 50 we’re tracking as part of a project to evaluate the mayor’s performance. (You can check out the full list of promises we’ll be tracking here.)

Filner said in a statement released Tuesday that he plans to put together an ordinance within the next 30 days that allows for reasonable regulation of dispensaries.

“We’ll try to find a balance between compassionate use on the one hand and the unhealthy aspects on the other,” he said.

Filner hasn’t offered specifics yet but his campaign statements may be telling.

Here’s how U-T San Diego summed up his views in September:

Filner said he didn’t like the city ordinance because it put up too many bureaucratic hurdles in the way of getting medicine to patients. He said he prefers an ordinance akin to the county’s plan, which requires weekly inspections from the Sheriff’s Department.

“I want to make sure it’s available for those who are suffering from illness but that neighbors are protected, kids are protected from any use or recreational use,” Filner said “I think you can do both. You have to have an ordinance which, unlike the one the council passed, allows them to occur but be regulated. And I think it was far too restrictive.”

But if Filner’s ordinance wins the City Council’s approval, his plans could face a well-known nemesis.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy vows to continue to target dispensaries and as our Scott Lewis wrote earlier this week, she’s unlikely to back down because of a city ordinance.

Filner has shared his distaste for Duffy’s enforcement actions in the past.

Last July, Filner chided Duffy for sending two letters to Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative, then the sole medical marijuana dispensary with the right to operate in San Diego County.

“This threat is a form of unwarranted intimidation that the [Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative] doesn’t deserve,” Filner wrote in a letter to Duffy.

The new mayor’s comments at a recent San Diego Americans for Safe Access meeting put the issue back in the spotlight.

CityBeat documented three new promises from the new mayor:

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.

He’s already working on those new pledges too.

Filner plans to hash out the ordinance and at least temporarily, city staffers were told not to report dispensary violations. (For more background on that saga, check out this U-T San Diego story and our latest update.)

And at a Wednesday gathering with reporters, Filner said he also managed to get a few minutes with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier this month.

In their brief conversation, Filner said he asked for a chance to discuss less-burdensome marijuana regulations for states such as California, where voters have supported access to the drug for medical purposes. He apparently agreed to a future meeting.

Eugene Davidovich, coordinator of the local Americans for Safe Access chapter, said medical-marijuana advocates are impressed with Filner’s commitment in recent weeks. Activists are hopeful and excited, he said.

“We’re definitely making progress in the community,” Davidovich said. “For the first time in the city’s history, we have a friendly mayor on this issue.”

Filner so far earns a “Working On It” rating — he’s taken steps to address the issue but the ultimate goal hasn’t yet been reached. We’ll check his progress in coming weeks and months.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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