The San Francisco Office of the Legislative Analyst (OLA) told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday that recent court rulings had made possible the establishment of collectives and cooperatives to grow and distribute medical marijuana. The groundbreaking report is a result of Proposition S, the 2002 ballot measure passed by city voters in reaction to a series of highly-publicized DEA raids on patients and providers. That measure, which passed with 62% of the vote, directed the city to "explore the possibility of establishing a program whereby the City would grow medical cannabis and distribute it to patients attempting to exercise their rights under Proposition 215," the state's medical marijuana law passed by ballot initiative in 1996.
The OLA did just that with its report, and it found the possibility good. A cooperative based on the model of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (http://www.wamm.org) would be legal under both Proposition 215 and SB420, a recently passed bill that explicitly allows for the creation of medical marijuana co-ops and collectives. Equally important, the OLA found that since the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Raich v. Ashcroft, which enjoined the Justice Department from raiding medical marijuana patients and providers in its jurisdiction, a major legal obstacle no longer existed, or, as the OLA put it, in the current legal climate the city has "greater legal flexibility for the establishment of non-profit medical marijuana collectives/cooperatives in San Francisco."
The city could "explore the possibility of establishing a program whereby the City would grow medical cannabis and distribute it to patients attempting to exercise their rights under Proposition 215," the report said. It also presented various options for city involvement, including grants for supplies and equipment and renting land at a discounted rate. The report provided a range of options for the city, from taking no action and allowing private collectives to form, to imposing zoning and/or permitting requirement for city-approved co-ops, to actively supporting the co-ops as mentioned above.
"City involvement would signal active support and legitimacy for medical marijuana, provide incentives for the formation of collectives/cooperatives in San Francisco, and could reduce the risk and cost of providing medical marijuana to chronic and terminally-ill patients in San Francisco," the report noted.
But it also warned that such involvement could rouse the feds or increase the city's civil liability. City involvement could increase the risk that any co-op would constitute interstate commerce, a trigger for federal involvement, or that it could "cause the Federal government to retaliate by cutting off funds to the City for law enforcement or Homeland Security."
The city acted at the behest of its voters, but also because of continued pressure from groups such as Americans for Safe Access (http://www.safeacccessnow.org), the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org), and the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org), as well hundreds of patients, caregivers, cannabis club owners and their supporters. With a municipal government response to the concerns of its citizens, San Francisco is one step closer to city-supported medical marijuana co-ops.
Visit http://www.sfgov.org/site/bdsupvrs_page.asp?id=22631 to read the report online.