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Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Bob Filner on medical marijuana and meeting with constituents

Notes from the mayor's hourlong meeting with the press

By Kelly Davis
20130130_121738 Bob Filner meets with the press
To say that some members of the San Diego press have been a little frustrated with newly elected Mayor Bob Filner would be like saying that something smells foul in the burg of La Jolla—which, actually, was one of the topics at today's "pen and paper" session with the mayor. As we editorialized, getting information out of Filner's office hasn't been easy, despite his pledge on the campaign trail to run a transparent administration. Today's sit-down was a response to that frustration. Filner gave the press about an hour to ask whatever they wanted. Here are some bits and pieces with more to follow in a subsequent blog post.

Saturday, Feb. 2, from 9:30 to noon will be Filner's first "Saturday at City Hall." 

"I'm just going to be in the lobby, basically open to whoever wants to come in and talk..... Whoever wants to talk to the mayor," he said.

Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis asked about Filner's plans to introduce a medical marijuana ordinance—would it be  the same one that was overturned, via petition, in 2011, or would it be the one proposed by the city's Medical Marijuana Task Force?

"I'm not sure it's either," Filner said. "We're re-looking at all of that with new eyes, which is me..... We've got to do this much faster than I initially thought, we hope within 30 days." 

Filner had asked the City Attorney to stop prosecuting dispensaries, but then changed his position (Lewis has a good piece on that). Today, he said there were "unintended consequences" of stopping the prosecutions. "There are people thinking of opening up [a dispensary] that we really didn't want to have happen until we have an ordinance. We want to keep things at the status quo, but I want to have as minimal a time of status quo as we can." 

He said he would have liked to have had the 12 pending cases against dispensaries dismissed, but the attorneys in the cases wanted to ask the city to pay their legal fees. "We talked to the attorneys on the other side to say, 'Hey, take your victory and run; don't demand legal fees.' But they had other legal concerns. So, the council did not want to dismiss those cases and pay legal fees at the same time."

Then there's the concern that dismissing this batch of cases might prompt lawsuits from dispensary owners whose cases have been prosecuted—"that if we were to somehow dismiss them... it would open up the other 100 cases. I said, stop it, but that has legal consequences on the other side. So, we don't want to dismiss it for that reason also."

The renewed discussions about how the city deals with medical-marijuana access started two weeks ago when Filner spoke at a meeting of the local chapter of Americans for Safe Access. There, he said he was going to demand that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith stop going after dispensaries. The following day, after CityBeat blogged about the meeting, Goldsmith responded with a letter saying that the mayor could stop him in "30 seconds." All Filner needed to do was tell the police department and the city's code-enforcement division to stop forwarding cases to Goldsmith's office. Filner said Goldsmith's letter forced his hand.

"If you're going to make change, you've got to do it somewhere. At the [ASA] meeting, in fact, where I talked about this, I had not intended—in fact, I was going to wait for a new ordinance so I wouldn't get into these issues. Then the City Attorney sort of invited me, with a letter—I don't know how he sent it to you guys before he sent it to me—saying that, you know, I could just stop prosecution if you asked me. So I did. I just wanted to take that opportunity. I wanted to move in a more measured way by having an ordinance ready, but the issue was forced."

Filner said he hadn't known that he could ask the City Attorney to stop prosecuting cases. "It was different information than what I had earlier, that somehow I just couldn't do that as a mayor."

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