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Filner halts prosecution of pot shops
By Craig Gustafson12:02 P.M.
JAN. 10, 2013
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Mayor Bob Filner is congratulated at the end of Monday's ceremony. Monday was the swearing in ceremony for San Diego's new mayor Bob Filner and several new and returning council-members. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner ordered a halt Thursday to the prosecution of marijuana dispensaries in the city by directing the end of targeted code enforcements against the shops.

The move comes two days after he promised medical marijuana advocates that he would take on City Attorney Jan Goldsmith over the issue to which Goldsmith responded that Filner need only assert his authority over the police and neighborhood code compliance departments to end the prosecutions.

Filner sent a Thursday letter titled “Stop the Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries” to Kelly Broughton, director of the Development Services Department, which oversees code compliance. He told him to stop code enforcement against marijuana dispensaries and to stop forwarding such cases to the City Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Filner inferred in the letter that other violations unrelated to marijuana could still be pursued at the dispensaries.

“To be clear, if there are general code enforcement or health and safety issues arising from these businesses, you are expected to enforce those laws against these businesses in the same manner you would any other business,” Filner wrote.

The mayor’s decision likely won’t lead to a proliferation of dispensaries in the city because it only blunts one law enforcement tactic to shut them down. The District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office can still proceed with prosecutions of those businesses.

It is, however, a positive sign for medical marijuana advocates who view Filner’s election to mayor as a fresh opportunity to pass an ordinance that would allow dispensaries to open their doors again within city limits. Filner has promised to work with them to create an ordinance in the next few weeks and has offered to testify on behalf of shop owners in court.

Filner appeared before the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access on Tuesday night and criticized the city attorney for not being helpful on the issue and referred to him as a “a little guy” that could be intimidated.

Goldsmith responded Wednesday with a letter to Filner.

“Rather than pursue the drama last night and call for a demonstration, you could have achieved your goal in less than 30 seconds,” Goldsmith wrote. “Neighborhood Code Compliance and San Diego Police Department are under your authority. As you know, you can direct them to stop sending cases to us and, instead, direct us to cease and dismiss all enforcement actions against marijuana dispensaries. We will, of course, comply with that direction.”

More than 200 medical marijuana collectives have been closed down in San Diego and Imperial counties since U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and her colleagues announced in 2011 sweeping enforcement actions aimed at distributors in California. Some closures were attributed to settlements with the City Attorney’s Office — before and after medical marijuana activists in the city failed to qualify a regulate-and-tax initiative for the November ballot.

The legal limbo for dispensaries dates to 1996 when state voters approved an initiative to allow people with recommendations from state-licensed physicians to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The drug remains illegal under federal law and any change in city policy would not have direct impact on the U.S. attorneys’ crackdown.

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Good work San Diego American's for Safe Access ~Susan Soares