San Diego Council To Debate Ordinance To Legalize Medical Marijuana
The San Diego City Council today will debate a proposal that would make medical marijuana use legal for as many as 3,000 "seriously ill" people, the Los Angeles Times reports. The proposed ordinance, which was drafted by a medical marijuana task force "under the auspices" of Proposition 215, would be tested over a two-year period (Reza, Los Angeles Times, 2/4). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996 and upheld by the state Supreme Court last July, patients with chronic diseases can use medical marijuana to treat pain. However, federal law prohibits the cultivation, distribution or possession of marijuana (California Healthline, 2/3). The San Diego ordinance would allow patients who were prescribed marijuana by a doctor to use up to three pounds of marijuana a year or grow up to 20 marijuana plants, the Times reports. Caregivers would be allowed to care for up to six patients and distribute up to 12 pounds of marijuana a year. Patients and caregivers would have to register with a not-for-profit health care agency that would issue identity cards and distribute the marijuana. It has not been decided where caregivers and patients could purchase marijuana legally. Juliana Humphrey, deputy public defender and chair of the task force, estimated that 1,500 to 3,000 patients would sign up for permits if the proposal is approved. Opponents of the proposed ordinance say it "is merely a dodge around federal laws that forbid medical use of marijuana," the Times reports. Michael Vigil, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in San Diego, said his office would have "zero tolerance" of marijuana users. He added, "There has never been a study that showed marijuana has any medicinal value whatsoever. We'll arrest people. We're not going to look the other way." San Diego Police Capt. Glenn Breitenstein said some members of the task force are "activists who are nothing more than marijuana advocates," adding that the proposal comes "closer to legalization of marijuana than meeting the needs of patients." He said a department spokesperson would speak out against the ordinance at the council meeting (Los Angeles Times, 2/4).
Meanwhile, according to a New York Times editorial, Bush administration officials have found "someone on whom to vent their frustration" over California's support of medical marijuana -- Ed Rosenthal, an Oakland medical marijuana advocate who at the "urging of federal prosecutors" last week was convicted of growing the drug (New York Times, 2/4). On Friday, a federal jury found that Rosenthal conspired to grow more than 100 plants, a crime that carries a minimum five-year sentence (California Healthline, 2/3). Rosenthal's "harsh punishment" demonstrates that "the misguided federal war on medical marijuana has now escalated out of control," the editorial says. Doctors "have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS," yet "Washington has ... tried to revoke the licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients," the Times contends. If the administration "really believes Proposition 215 has no legal authority, it should seek to strike down the law itself" or "go after cities like Oakland, which make medical marijuana available as part of municipal policy," the editorial contends. However, such a policy "could be inconvenient for an administration that favors greater autonomy for state and local governments," the editorial continues. The Bush administration "should stop tyrannizing doctors and sick people and focus on more important aspects of the war on drugs," the editorial concludes (New York Times, 2/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.