Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Monday, April 25, 2005- Page A - 1
Copyright: 2005 San Francisco Chronicle
Contact: [email protected]
S.F. Calif. -- Federal drug agents who want to crack down on marijuana
use in San Francisco, medical or otherwise, say the city’s plan to
regulate the drug may give law enforcement what it needs to do its job:
a paper trail.
Documents such as business permits, licenses and financial records do
not exist at many of the 43 known pot clubs in San Francisco. But new
city regulations — including some proposed last week by Mayor Gavin
Newsom — could force clubs to begin keeping such records.
“Yes, we can subpoena documents,” said Lawrence Mendosa, assistant
special agent in charge for the San Francisco Field Division of the Drug
Those documents would assist federal agents in mapping the
infrastructure of the marijuana distribution system in the city, he
While many pot club operators and medical marijuana users in San
Francisco agree the city needs regulations, the record-keeping issue
most certainly will be raised today when a Board of Supervisors
committee meets for the first time to explore marijuana regulations.
Newsom, who describes himself as a strong proponent of medical
marijuana, says the threat of DEA action because of city regulation is
“a legitimate question that should be explored.”
The DEA’s mission is to stop the sale, use, possession and cultivation
of illegal substances Northern California — and marijuana is second on
its priority list, after methamphetamine.
“Our responsibility is to enforce federal law and to bring justice those
who violate the law,’’ Mendosa said. “Whether it’s legal in the state
really doesn’t affect what we do.”
The DEA has raided clubs and crops across the state but so far has not
conducted a wide-scale assault on clubs in San Francisco, which has more
dispensaries than any other city in the nation, according to marijuana
Drug policy experts say it’s clear why pot clubs refuse to keep
“If you file a state return reporting tax payments to undertake a
federally prohibited activity, activity, you’re basically providing
evidence to the federal government,” said Peter Reuter, a professor at
the University of Maryland and co-author of the book “Drug War
Reuter said San Francisco will be entering what he calls the
“netherworld” of creating rules for an illegal substance. He said the
Netherlands, where marijuana use officially is prohibited, is also in
that realm and it creates constant problems.
“For many years, cities struggled with what they could do and couldn’t.
Coffee shops would test out the limits, and cities would struggle to
respond,” he said. The Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center had an
open-book policy, until it was shut down by the federal government in
October 2001, said Dale Gieringer, California state coordinator for the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
every ounce: where it came from, what it cost them, where it went.
That’s what got them into trouble. (The Justice Department) got the
books and closed them,” Gieringer said. One of the recommendations
Newsom made last week is that dispensaries would have to open their
books to city inspectors to verify that they’re operating as a not-for-
profit business cooperative or collective, as required by the state, and
that only primary caregivers and authorized patients are buying the
Among Newsom’s other suggestions were zoning requirements, advertising
regulation and good neighbor” policies that would create a grievance
process for residents living near a club.
“As a business owner, that’s not something I would want,” Newsom said.
“But the businesses I run … the government does come in and audit my
books all the time. … It’s no different than anyone else.”
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is leading the Board of Supervisors
effort, said he thinks new regulations will demystify clubs and pull
them out of a subterranean atmosphere.
“There’s always that threat (of DEA action). But I think that threat is
lessened more by regulating the clubs. If the Department of Public
Health is the driver of this, we have advanced our ability to rely on
doctor-patient confidentiality,” he said.
Mirkarimi wants to look at new rules for all three parts of the medical
marijuana infrastructure — the clubs, the doctors and the growers — and
said the most logical places to start are zoning, public health,
planning and land use.
He said the ultimate goal of a functioning medical marijuana system is
legalization of the substance. That’s exactly what’s driving the federal
government to raid clubs and crops, said Robert Mac- Coun, a professor
of public policy and law at UC Berkeley who authored the book with
Reuter. “The reform effort has been led by drug law reformers, not
patient groups. The federal government is upset about this not because
people dying from cancer are smoking marijuana, but because they see it
as a slippery slope,” MacCoun said. “The fact of the matter is, the
federal government is fighting marijuana legalization.”
Proposed Rules for Medical Marijuana:
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last week proposed a number of
regulations he would like the Board of Supervisors to impose on medical
marijuana clubs in the city, which now number 43.
many of which are modeled after state provisions regulating medical
1. Forbidding the clubs to operate within 1,000 feet
of places where young people congregate, such as playgrounds, parks,
schools or youth centers, or within 500 feet of another dispensary.
Prohibiting the drinking of alcohol on the premises.
3. Making club
records available to city inspectors to verify they are meeting state
requirements to operate as a not-for-profit cooperative or collective.
4. Ensuring that only primary caregivers and authorized patients are
buying the marijuana.
5. Requiring owners to get Planning Department
approval and to notify neighbors of their intent to open a club.
Restricting advertising of the clubs to medical and public health
communities, such as hospitals and clinics.
7. Requiring that the clubs
adhere to good-neighbor policies to prevent such nuisances as loitering,
excessive noise and illegal parking around the facilities.
Note: Proposed rules could unintentionally assist federal
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