Monday, March 29, 2010

Americans for Safe Access reaction to SD County Proposed Ordinance

By: Kris Hermes (ASA), Eugene Davidovich (SD ASA)

San Diego County Board of Supervisors issued a proposed ordinance that they would like to see adopted in the County of San Diego. The ordinance is supposed to provide guidelines, regulations, and zoning for medical marijuana dispensing collectives and cooperatives.

This proposed ordinance instead of helping regulate medical marijuana in the county, would work to restrict and eliminate safe reliable access for patients most in need of the medicine their physicians have recommended they use.

Americans for Safe Access has several specific concerns with the proposed ordinance:

1. Most of the recent ordinances adopted in California employ departments of health or other non-law enforcement agencies to administer their local medical marijuana dispensary laws. This is not the case with this ordinance. The licensing authority should not be the Sheriff's Department, and should be replaced by the County Department of Health or other more appropriate agency.

2. One of the main reasons for authorizing departments of health to administer such programs is that it's important to have patient needs respected and to have local laws implemented and enforced with patients needs at the heart of such laws. A perfect example of this is the provisions that allow the sheriff unfettered access (without subpoena) to: private patient records, financial transaction records, and records indicating the source of supply of medical marijuana. Such provisions place both patients and providers at risk of unnecessary local and, more importantly, federal interference. If the feds can subpoena this information (or if it's willingly delivered by local law enforcement), there is risk of arrest and prosecution. Given the track record of the sheriff and other law enforcement agencies in San Diego regarding enforcement of state law, there is every reason to believe that this authority and access to private information will be abused.

3. Another provision in this ordinance would ban edible medical marijuana. Why would the county prohibit the ingestion of medical marijuana edible products for those patients that have trouble smoking it or simply choose to eat their medicine? This is an unnecessary restriction that would otherwise provide patients with alternative methods of ingestion. Edibles are currently permitted and provided to patients at hundreds of dispensaries across the state.

4. Another provision that is unnecessarily problematic is the prohibition on anyone operating a dispensary who has been convicted of a felony. While some localities include provisions prohibiting violent felons from operating a dispensary, there is no need to exclude all persons with felony convictions, especially since many patients have criminal records based on activity that is now lawful, but was deemed illegal prior to the passage of the Compassionate Use Act.

5. Finally and most importantly, is the provision restricting dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet from a laundry list of so-called "sensitive uses," such as schools, churches, parks, etc. While this seems to be a trend among localities that have adopted dispensary ordinances, it is a very onerous requirement that would relegate facilities to remote, outlying areas, making it difficult for patients to access their medicine, especially those with mobility issues. The restriction on locating within 1,000 feet of a residence is perhaps the most onerous provision of the ordinance, making it a de facto ban. The only other ordinance in the state that restrict the proximity to residences is that of the City of Los Angeles, and it remains to be seen whether ANY dispensaries will be able to relocate in accordance with that ordinance, leading many to call it a de facto ban.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) as well as the San Diego Chapter of ASA are greatly concerned about this restrictive ordinance. We urge the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to develop a policy which takes into consideration patients’ needs, rather than the desires, fears, and bias of law enforcement.

Please email the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and ask that they revise the ordinance.

  • Public Review of Proposed Ordinance: March 3, 2010 - April 2, 2010
  • San Diego County Planning Commission Vote on Proposed Ordinance: May 14, 2010
  • Board of Supervisors vote on Proposed Ordinance: June 23, 2010
County Board Point of Contact:Joe Farace (858)

San Diego Americans for Safe Access

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