Friday, March 11, 2011

Harassment of Medical Marijuana Patients in San Diego Continues

Rogue Code Enforcement Officer Peter Bedrosian intimidates, harasses, and questions visibly ill patient in the streets of East San Diego County

By: Eugene Davidovich

SAN DIEGO – For years the county’s sick and dying have been at the brunt of District Attorney Bonnie (DA) Dumanis’ ‘fierce fight’ against medical marijuana patients. Dumanis’ fight has included raids on dispensaries, arrests of wheel-chair bound and terminally-ill patients, and has resulted in courtroom acquittals rather than convictions costing the county thousands and serious embarrassment to law enforcement.

In June of 2010, Dumanis managed to convince the County Board of Supervisors, a governing body historically opposed to medical marijuana, to adopt an ordinance which forced all dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county to shut down.

Since then, a few brave safe access pioneers, determined to provide the sick and dying with quality care, remained open and began to challenge the “de-facto” ban in court. With court challenges ramping up, under the direction of Top Cop, Dumanis, the Sheriff and Code Enforcement have launched a harassment campaign against the remaining care facilities.

The latest and most egregious example surfaced last month when Code Enforcement Officer Peter Bedrosian busily harassed and interrogated patients outside a remaining facility in the East County of San Diego and came across Vey Linville, a very active advocate, terminally ill patient, and member of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

Below is an account of Mr. Linville’s encounter with Bedrosian as well as my attempt to clarify the departmental policy with regards to code enforcement encounters with patients.

After Mr. Linville contacted San Diego ASA and reported the incident, I was assigned to investigation. The goal was to determine the Sheriff Department’s and Code Enforcement policies on their interactions with patients as well as voice San Diego ASA’s concern for the incident.

I first called Mr. Bedrosian. When he answered his phone, I introduced myself and began to express my concern regarding his interaction with Mr. Linville was going to asked him for clarification on the department’s policy. After hearing who I was and why I was calling, a very angry Bedrosian began shouting into the telephone then, finishing his rant, he hung up. Shortly after his episode, Bedrosian called back with another ranting voicemail, this time complete with threats and intimidating statements which appeared designed to scare me into silence.

Following this call I wrote an email and left a voicemail for Assistant Sheriff Prendergast, the official spokesperson for the Sheriff on medical marijuana issues in the hopes of a response. In the email, I inquired about the policy as well as whether a departmental training program was in place for field code enforcement officers in those sensitive interactions. In the email, which I carbon copied Bedrosian on, I included Mr. Linville’s letter.

Around that same time, Mr. Linville personally hand delivered the letter to Assistant Sheriff Prendergast’s office. Mr. Linville’s letter as well as my email and calls, remain unanswered.
Here is the full content of the letter sent by Mr. Linville to Assistant Sheriff Prendergast which Mr. Linville has agreed to share with us for this article:
Assistant Sheriff Prendergast,
My name is Vey Linville. We met recently at the County Board of Supervisors meeting. I am an emphysema patient with an oxygen tank. I legally drink cannabis medicines to keep from suffocating. I thought you might perhaps remember me. I have been in the press and on TV several times recently regarding this issue, and I am an active and vocal member of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutics and research.
On Thursday February 17, 2011, I was delivering political event flyers to various facilities in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. It was approximately 1 p.m., I was dressed in a business suit and tie, and I was encumbered as usual with my oxygen tank.
On exiting XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX on  xxxxx . in xxxxxxxxx, as I approached my vehicle, I was detained, interrogated, and harassed with no cause by a County Code Enforcement team, led by Peter Bedrosian, Code Enforcement Officer, Dept. of Planning and Land Use, (858-694-3047,peter.bedrosian@sdcounty.ca.gov).
Mr. Bedrosian identified himself and asked me in an aggressive and forceful manner who I was and what I was doing there. As a legal patient on life support with an illness considered terminal, I was quite intimidated by his aggressive demeanor, tone, and line of questioning; but I offered my hand and introduced myself and told him that I was there representing the San Diego Chapter of Americans For Safe Access and that I was dropping off brochures. This seemed to greatly agitate Mr. Bedrosian. He said: “Brochures, Eh?”, crossed his arms and proceeded to interrogate me in the parking lot.
He wanted to know if “The Facility” was still “Operating” inside. I explained to him that since I was just dropping off flyers, that I had not been past the front waiting area today; and that I could not say of my own knowledge what activities may or may not be occurring inside. I also explained to him that I had been to this facility before, and that I was not aware of any conduct by this facility not in fullest and strictest compliance with all state laws and local ordinances that I am aware of.
This seemed to cause Mr. Bedrosian great distress, and his level of agitation continued to increase. By this point, the other member of the Code Enforcement Team was trying to tell Mr. Bedrosian privately that he had seen me speak at the Planning Commission, and he seemed to be trying quite hard to get Mr. Bedrosian to calm down and disengage from this encounter.
At this point, Mr. Bedrosian took a couple of deep breaths and tried to put a good face on the above by explaining to me in a calmer tone and a forced smile that they had no problem with this facility continuing to operate, but that the issue was one of location. He told me that there were parcels in Spring Valley that were zoned for this, and that it would be fine for the facility to move to one of them.
I told Mr. Bedrosian calmly that I was a resident of Spring Valley, and that I was quite aware of the two parcels that he was referring to. I explained that my mobility is limited, and that I have many patients as friends who are far more disabled than I, in wheelchairs and on dialysis. I explained to him that a rock quarry and a radiation disposal area, without buildings, utilities, or improvements were not my idea of Safe Access; and that I did not think that was what the voters of California had in mind, or the framers of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
That is when I realized that this was an issue that Mr. Bedrosian is clearly taking very personally. He became even more angry and frustrated, and the other team member was forced to pull him away by the arm; and they left. I was afraid that Mr. Bedrosian’s clear personal bias on this political issue would result in attempted law enforcement action against me, because of my legal patient status, my political activities, and by simply being near that facility at that time.
Apparently this facility has a number of recorded video cameras, including one covering the front outside area; and a member inside had watched this Code Enforcement “Terminal Patient Encounter” unfold. This member came outside to see if I had been harmed, and to assist me with my oxygen tank and offer me water or whatever aid I might need. Before leaving the parking lot, I contacted Eugene Davidovich the San Diego Area Liaison for Americans for Safe Access and notified him of the incident.
It is my understanding that you personally have always treated the medical marijuana community and members of Americans for Safe Access in a fair, balanced and honorable way; and my recent meeting with you bears this out. I know as well that you have served with the highest valor in the field. I must therefore share with you one more item of the gravest concern. Yesterday I was told by members of the community that Mr. Bedrosian has had a number of other highly negative “Patient Encounters” of the worst kind.
It is my understanding that the purview of a Code Enforcement Officer is rather narrow.
It is my sincere hope that in the future, legal patients going about their lawful occasions in San Diego County will not be harassed in the street by County Code Enforcement Officers who may be personally uncomfortable with existing California State Law and political activity by legal patients, and are unable to exercise reasonable discretion thereby.
I must also encourage public policy discussion on this issue. It directly affects patients Quality Of Life, and intimidation of this type can keep the sick and dying from obtaining their life-saving medicine in San Diego County. I encourage you to work with Eugene Davidovich and other members of Americans for Safe Access to implement a policy for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that would address these types of interactions with the sick and dying in the County of San Diego.
I understand that your people have a job to do. This just isn’t it.
Thank you Sir, Vey Linville
Why has the county taken such a harsh stance on this issue considering that the latest field polls show 80% of registered voters in the County of San Diego support medical marijuana?

The lack of response from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and Code Enforcement suggests that there is a serious disconnect between the will and needs of the residents of the county and their elected representatives. This disconnect gravely concerns the community which overwhelmingly supports the Compassionate Use Act and the fair treatment of sick and dying patients.

In Bedrosian’s case, his personal views against medical marijuana patients have clearly influenced his work, he now as a part of his job feels he has a right to target sick people who are exercising their right to free speech, under the guise of code enforcement.

On-the-job Code Enforcement officers like Peter Bedrosian and other law enforcement officials should keep their personal and political beliefs from spilling these views into a vitriol of hatred of patients.

It is time the San Diego Community stood up against this unfair treatment of patients and demanded accountability. I encourage you to contact the San Diego County’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board and file a complaint urging them to investigate the treatment of patients by Code Enforcement as well as other law enforcement officials in San Diego County.

Our most vulnerable residents deserve respect and a policy that takes into account their needs.

Download Instructions and form to file a complaint with the County’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board:
http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/clerb/docs/Comp-frm.pdf

For questions and tips contact: sandiegoasa@gmail.com

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