City code enforcement officers and police will no longer target medical marijuana dispensaries under a directive issued Thursday by Mayor Bob Filner.
Filner, in letters to Kelly Broughton, director of the Development Services Department, which oversees code compliance, and San Diego police Chief William Landsdowne, also directed both of their departments "to stop sending dispensary code enforcement cases to the City Attorney's Office for prosecution."
"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," the mayor wrote.
In a statement issued late today, he said he wanted "to assure the residents of San Diego that there will be the utmost safeguards surrounding these dispensaries. They will not be near schools, playgrounds or any areas where children might gather, nor will they be allowed to infringe on the quality of life in any neighborhood."
Filner added, "I believe that in order to be a great city, we must also be a humane city and show compassion for those who need help in dealing with chronic pain."
He said he'll soon bring a proposed ordinance to regulate the dispensaries before the City Council.
The decision to halt the enforcement of medical marijuana comes a few days after Filner spoke to Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group, and promised a multi-track approach to support their cause.
Among other things, he promised to get the City Council to pass an ordinance that allows the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, and try to convince District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to "back off" prosecutions of dispensary owners.
On Wednesday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told the mayor in a memo that he could prevent medical marijuana prosecutions "in less than 30 seconds" by issuing directives to the code compliance office and SDPD.
Goldsmith said his office would halt court action against dispensaries if requested by those two departments.
The City Council implemented land-use policies two years ago that allowed dispensaries in certain locations, but medical marijuana advocates considered them too restrictive and collected enough signatures to get the ordinances rescinded. That move, however, had the effect of making dispensaries illegal and well over 100 were subsequently shut down in the region.
-City News Service