Medical marijuana task force, controversy are the buzz
by ADRIANE TILLMAN
Published - 10/14/09 - 04:17 PM | 4708 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Medical marijuana has come under fire in San Diego as law enforcement and patients clash over how to regulate the drug. Clearing the smoke to get a look at the issue is the new 11-member Medical Marijuana Task Force appointed by San Diego City Council.

In 2003, the state attorney general issued an 11-page document to provide guidelines for medical marijuana collectives, which noted federal laws, addressed the location of collectives, defined physician requirements and provided vague guidelines for the running of collectives.

In 2006, Los Angeles County amended its municipal code to help regulate the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries. Last May, Oceanside placed an emergency moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts.

The Medical Marijuana Task Force’s first order of business is to provide land use and zoning recommendations for the collectives by January 2010. At its first meeting on Oct. 9, the task force reviewed ordinances enacted by other cities.

Task force member Steven Whitburn believes there is a lack of clarity in the attorney general’s guidelines. Whitburn, 45, is vice-chair of the North Park Planning Committee and a North Park resident.

“I think that it falls upon the cities to try to develop guidelines that work for medical marijuana users, for law enforcement and that work for neighborhoods,” Whitburn said. “People that I respect a great deal have told me that they have benefited from medical marijuana, and I would like to see them and others have safe access to it.”

Task force member John Minto, 51, would like to see the task force form its own ideas instead of relying too much on other city ordinances. Minto doesn’t believe the ordinances passed by other cities are significantly different than the attorney general’s guidelines. Minto served as a police officer for the City of San Diego for 29 years, specializing in youth violence and prevention. He resides in Santee.

“I want to hear what the experts have to say to form our own opinions,” Minto said.

As far as the discrepancy between federal law and state Prop 215 that legalized the use of medical marijuana in California, Minto doesn’t believe federal law holds any weight because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear lawsuits regarding the issue.

“The federal law trumps state law… but the U.S. Supreme Court says it doesn’t really care what the state does,” Minto said. “The state has spoken; the people have spoken. I don’t agree with the majority of the people who voted, but that’s OK because I live in a republic where people have the right to have a majority vote.”

Minto said he voted against Prop 215 because he believes other medications can achieve the same medical result as marijuana, but he added that the task force members have agreed to set their personal opinions aside. 

“Everyone agreed that personal opinions don’t have a play,” Minto said. “Our job is to craft the right guidelines and policies for land use and regulatory permits.”

Task force member Mark Robert Bluemel hopes the task force will be able to provide clear guidelines for city council. He said the district attorney’s interpretation of the law has cruelly criminalized innocent medical marijuana users who not only suffer maladies but now face arrest, detention and federal charges. 

“If I can prevent that, that’s why I’m there,” Bluemel said.

Bluemel, of San Carlos, is an attorney who has represented medical marijuana users.

City Council charged the task force to come up with guidelines within a year that address: medical marijuana patients and caregivers; the structure and operation of marijuana cooperatives/collectives; police enforcement; and, the first order of business, land use and zoning recommendations. Other members of the task force include David Martin, a business owner in Ocean Beach; Larry Sweet, a medical marijuana patient from Ocean Beach; and medical doctor Tom Cummings of La Jolla.

The Medical Marijuana Task Force is scheduled to meet Friday, Oct. 16; Thursday, Oct. 22; Friday, Oct. 30; and Friday, Nov. 6. All meetings will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at the closed session room, 12th floor, at City Hall, 202 C St. For more information, e-mail Kim Nguyen at [email protected]
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