HALLINAN: LET THE CITY PASS OUT POT IF CLUBS CLOSE
If the federal government shuts down California's marijuana clubs, city health workers could be called On to distribute the drug to patients who need it, San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan said Saturday.
The former city supervisor and outspoken backer of medical marijuana made the suggestion in court papers he Plans to file Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in an effort to keep open The City's pot clubs-under siege by the courts and the U.S. Justice Department.
Hallinan admits the idea is still in the working stages and needs more thorough review by the health department and other city agencies.
Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Health Department, said the proposal remains "a hypothetical," but he expressed support for the concept.
"What you're hearing is that there is an absolute commitment to vigorously make sure marijuana is available to those who need it to alleviate their sickness," Katz said.
"If the pot clubs are forced to close, The City would look at a variety of alternatives." he said. 'It's an energetic and courageous city. I think we will find a way."
The proposal would be a last ditch way to preserve the intent of Proposition 215, the initiative passed by state voters in 1996 that legalized the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for seriously ill patients, he said.
The proposal, which would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, could make San Francisco the first city in the world actively to provide marijuana to its citizens and would continue The City's reputation as a municipal maverick and testing ground for progressive ideas.
"I would prefer that these clubs do it, but we're throwing out alternatives in light of what the courts appear to be saying and the lack of clarity in the proposition itself," Hallinan said. 'We're struggling to make this resource available to ill people."
Katz said the health department would wait for the courts to decide the fate of the pot clubs before launching a study of the costs and logistics of setting up a city-run marijuana operation.
Despite several recent court rulings, the status of the clubs remains up in the air.
In December, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled against buyers clubs, saying a commercial outfit cannot furnish pot to the sick by claiming to be a patient's "primary caregiver."
Prop. 215 allows patients or their primary caregivers to cultivate or possess marijuana for medicinal use by the patient upon a doctor's recommendation.
A state Supreme Court ruling on Feb. 25 let the appellate,court ruling stand.
IGNORED COURT ORDER
But the Cannabis Cultivators Club of San Francisco has largely ignored a Superior Court order to block it from selling or giving away marijuana at the club's offices.
Despite the Supreme Court's decision, founder Dennis Peron said his position as caregiver to the club's 8,000 customers puts him within the confines of the law. State and local law enforcement officials have not challenged him.
Hallinan will file his friend-of-the-court brief to block a separate effort by the Justice Department to shut down the Cannabis Cultivators Club and five other clubs in Marin County, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Ukiah. U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi moved to close the collectives in January, saying they violated the federal Controlled Substances Act.
A court hearing in the case is scheduled for March 24.
In the brief, Hallinan argues that closing pot clubs would force patients with AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses to seek marijuana on the street, at significantly higher prices.
'What is now a reasonably well controlled, safe distribution system and one that has generally been characterized by cooperation with city officials - will instead devolve into a completely unregulated, and unregulatable, public nuisance," he wrote.
CITY MIGHT DISTRIBUTE POT
If the clubs were outlawed, The City might have to distribute marijuana itself in light of the "ill effects of forcing patients to purchase medical marijuana on the street," he wrote.
A spokesman in Attorney General Dan Lungren's office, which has steadfastly opposed pot clubs said the courts would likely have to determine if city health worker could distribute marijuana.
"I can't say for certain whether a health care worker (for The City) is a primary caregiver or not," said spokesman Matt Ross.
John Hudson, co-director of the now-defunct Flower Therapy, San Francisco pot club that was one of the targets of the federal case, said he backs the move to, make medical marijuana a government responsibility.
"It's because it's a health issue that's why," Hudson said. "Let' take it out of the hands of law enforcement and put it into the hands of health officials, where people want it."
Board of Supervisors President Barbara Kaufinan said she had not heard Hallinan's suggestion, but said the board would seriously consider it if pot clubs in the area were closed down.
"The board is very supportive o the public being able to have access to the medical use of marijuana, Kaufman said. "If the district attorney is proposing something,there is some kind of legislation and if the health department was willing to go along with it, I think would have the board's support."