Marijuana now a low priority in SF
by Heather Cassell
San Francisco joined other cities such as Oakland, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, and Seattle that have passed similar legislation to make marijuana arrests a low priority in a quite move on December 1, World AIDS Day.
The bill was overwhelmingly supported by the Board of Supervisors by an 8-3 vote on November 21 and passed a second vote 7-3 on November 28 before being sent to Mayor Gavin Newsom.
"I feel really good about it. It's a policy that's endorsed by a majority of San Franciscans, reflecting what they feel about the issue," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who authored the legislation.
According to Newsom's spokesman, Joe Arellano, Newsom was unable to review the legislation within the 10-day review period due to the fact that the bill arrived on his desk as he was leaving for his trip to the Philippines earlier this month. Acting mayor Supervisor Sean Elsbernd received the legislation and returned it unsigned. As a result, the bill became law automatically.
"I'm very glad it happened," said Dennis Peron, author of the Compassionate Care Act of 1996, better known as Proposition 215.
However, Peron wasn't pleased that part of the San Francisco legislation urges taxation of marijuana, "Everyone is addicted to marijuana money," he said, adding that other medications aren't taxed in California and marijuana is medicine. "I'm against taxing medicine."
The new ordinance does prohibit marijuana in connection with criminal offenses (including driving while under the influence); any minors' involvement with the herb; and distribution or sales of cannabis on public property or within view of someone on public property, unless a person is in their own home or in a private building.
San Francisco also will no longer accept federal funding that focuses on criminalizing cannabis. The new law also urges the district attorney not to aggressively prosecute cases involving marijuana charges and San Francisco police are barred from becoming deputized by federal law enforcement to target adults using marijuana. The new ordinance also supports taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana for people over the age of 18, although that part of the law is not legally binding.
"The mayor continues to support the use of medical marijuana for people suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, and other illnesses," said Arellano, who added that Newsom "wholeheartedly" supports the San Francisco Police Department with its drug investigations and enforcement policies.
To enforce the new ordinance the Board of Supervisors will appoint a citizen advisory committee to oversee that the new law is enacted, report on any police and legal matters related to marijuana charges, and advise and recommend policy changes to the board.