Eager to back up District Attorney George Gascón’s recent public support for medical marijuana, prosecutors from his office plan to meet soon with San Francisco medical marijuana providers to flesh out a set of rules agreeable to both sides.
Gascón’s office scared the industry in March when it filed a legal brief arguing that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal. The brief was filed in the case of a woman who was arrested and charged with felonies after making what her attorney has called a delivery on behalf of a registered medical marijuana collective.
But Gascón later said that the brief was filed without his knowledge and that prosecuting marijuana cases will not be a priority for his administration. A representative of his office subsequently reaffirmed that position at a pro-marijuana rally April 3 at City Hall.
Now, staffers from Gascón’s office plan to meet with dispensary operators and cultivators, according to District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman. She said the working group hopes to find “workable solutions so patients can continue to have safe, legal access to medical marijuana.”
No meetings have yet been scheduled, organizers with the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana users’ advocacy group, said Tuesday.
San Francisco’s Medical Cannabis Task Force already consists of patient advocates, pot cultivators, and marijuana dispensary and delivery operators. However, no prosecutors or police officers sit on that body, which presents policy advice to the Board of Supervisors in the form of an annual report.
Some of the marijuana advocates who sit on the task force also were involved with a medical marijuana working group during the administration of former District Attorney Kamala Harris. That group stopped meeting some time in 2010, however, and did not create any substantive policy or regulations.
Although medical marijuana has been theoretically legal in California since 1996, the open-ended guidelines enshrined in state law leave key issues such as possession limits and rules for cultivation and delivery services open to interpretation. The City’s 22 licensed marijuana dispensaries claim legal protection under state and local law, although medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
San Francisco police have in the past raided growing operations or arrested providers only to drop the charges and return the seized marijuana once the medical status was proved in court. On one occasion, police returned several pounds of marijuana to a grower.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a former attorney general, addressed some of these vagaries with a set of guidelines released in 2008, but the marijuana community and law enforcement officials both sought more specificity.
In the meantime, the case in which the brief was filed is still in the courts, according to former District Attorney Terence Hallinan, the woman’s attorney. Hallinan met on Tuesday with Sharon Woo, Gascón’s deputy in charge of narcotics, to flesh out a deal.
“The indication is they intend to dismiss the charges” when the case is next in court May 10, Hallinan said Wednesday.