MEDICAL MARIJUANA: San Francisco May Move To Distribute Drug
San Francisco "officials are promoting the city's Department of Public Health as the most likely distributor" of marijuana for medical purposes following the closure of the city's largest cannabis club. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the move "would make San Francisco the first city in the state to distribute pot." Supervisor Tom Ammiano said yesterday, "The will is there to put this in public health's court. We have to make it happen as soon as possible." The Chronicle reports that "[c]ity officials are scheduled to meet this afternoon in Mayor Willie Brown's office to work out a policy on how to get marijuana to people who need it for medicinal reasons." According to Ammiano, the Board of Supervisors may draft legislation to empower the health department to distribute the drug within a few days. However, the Chronicle reports that the move could put the city "on a legal collision course with the federal government." Ammiano maintains that Proposition 215 empowered the city to distribute medical marijuana, but "acknowledged that the law is ambiguous about ways city officials could legally obtain the weed." He said, "Since Proposition 215 allows medical marijuana to be distributed, it implies that there has to be a means of legally obtaining it" (Martin, 5/28).
Grow It And They Will Come
San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan told a state Senate hearing earlier in the week that "San Francisco should get into the business of growing marijuana and selling it to seriously ill people." He said the move is "one of last resort" because of attacks by the federal government on the state's medical marijuana law. "San Francisco has probably had to deal with this issue more than any other city because of the huge epidemic of AIDS in our community," he said, adding, "The question is what can we do without jeopardizing the public safety." He said he envisions a health clinic-like system that "would involve city health inspectors" and "growing marijuana." However, the San Francisco Examiner reports, he said "both distribution and cultivation would most likely be contracted out, just like the city's successful needle-exchange program." Hallinan speculated that the system would be acceptable to the federal government if the health department "authorized the distribution of marijuana to seriously ill people and put strict controls in place" (Cruz, 5/27). The Chronicle reports that it is not clear if Mayor Brown is behind the distribution idea, but that his "endorsement is an absolute prerequisite for a city-sponsored" program. He did say that "city employees risk arrest and incarceration if they violate the law in their attempts to distribute medical marijuana" and that he is "not going to jail for anyone" (5/28).