MEDICAL MARIJUANA: San Francisco May Open Cannabis Club
San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan said Saturday that "[i]f the federal government shuts down California's marijuana clubs, city workers could be called on to distribute the drug to patients who need it." Hallinan "made the suggestion in court papers he plans to file [today] in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in an effort to keep open the city's pot clubs," the San Francisco Examiner reports. Hallinan said, "I would prefer that these clubs do it, but we're throwing out alternatives in light of what the courts appear to be saying." Hallinan is filing a friend-of-the-court brief in an effort by the Justice Department "to shut down the Cannabis Cultivators Club and five other clubs" in the state. He argues that "closing pot clubs would force patients with AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses to seek marijuana on the streets." He said the city may "have to distribute marijuana itself in light of the 'ill effects of forcing patients to purchase medical marijuana on the street.'"
Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Health Department, said while the proposal was "hypothetical," he supported it in concept. He said, "What you're hearing is that there is an absolute commitment to vigorously make sure marijuana is available to those who need it to alleviate their sickness." He added, "If the pot clubs are forced to close, the city would look at a variety of alternatives." He called the idea of having the city distribute medical marijuana "a last-ditch way to preserve the intent of Proposition 215, the initiative passed by state voters in 1996 that legalized the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for seriously ill patients." The move, which would require the approval of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would make the city the "first ... in the world actively to provide marijuana to its citizens." A spokesperson for state Attorney General Dan Lungren "said the courts would likely have to determine if city health workers could distribute marijuana" (Coile, 3/15).
Sacramento's Public Affair
Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully is calling "for fines up to $1,000" for medicinal marijuana users who use the substance "in restaurants or other public places." The Sacramento Bee reports that Scully wrote county supervisors a letter saying, "The ingestion of any medicine, especially one which disperses smoke into the surrounding area, should be a private matter and not a public display." City officials "began pushing for a ban after" the D.A.'s office dropped charges against a man arrested for smoking a joint in a restaurant. Backers of Proposition 215 are angry over the proposal, although Sacramento County Supervising District Attorney Dale Kitching concedes that the ordinance "essentially allows medicinal pot smokers to smoke in the streets." Scully contends that voters did not intend to permit pot smoking in public with Proposition 215. She is seeking approval from "Sacramento city officials to consider adopting the same ordinance" that the city of Folsom has in place to restrict pot smoking in public.
Michael Lemon, executive director of the Sacramento AIDS Foundation, agreed with the limited restrictions, saying, "We are advocates for our clients to access medicinal marijuana, but that doesn't include smoking it in public or trading it." County supervisor Illa Collin, said, however, "Are we going to tell a diabetic where to have an insulin shot?" Ryan Landers, who was charged for smoking pot in public, claimed, "If you don't ban tobacco in public, you can't stop me from taking my medicine in public." The Bee reports that county supervisors will hold a hearing on the issue on Tuesday (Martineau, 3/14).