In late February, a political committee called Citizens for Patient Rights announced that Rep. Bob Filner, a candidate for mayor, had endorsed its ballot initiative to regulate medical marijuana in the city of San Diego.
Filner has been a long-time champion of medical marijuana in Congress and is seen by many—if not universally—in the local medical-marijuana community as the natural choice for mayor on this issue. But the community is divided over the ballot measure. As we previously reported, two prominent local organizations, the San Diego branch of Americans for Safe Access and the California Cannabis Coalition, have expressed concern that the measure would set up an unfair regulatory system. The former chair and vice chair of the city's medical marijuana task force echo that apprehension. As it's written, the initiative would put accreditation, inspection and compliance powers in the hands of a single organization, the Patient Care Association, the main group bankrolling Citizens for Patients Rights. The group claims to be a sort of chamber of commerce for the medi-pot industry, representing about 60 collectives.
And the Patient Care Association is a big supporter of a Filner, raising money for his campaign. IT is also close with the California Democratic Party. The group sponsored a well-attended hospitality suite when the state convention came through in the spring.
Generally speaking, however, Democrats (and CityBeat) tend to reject the idea of self-regulating industries, arguing that corporations can't be trusted to police themselves. So, what makes medical marijuana different from, for example, the energy or financial industries?
During our endorsement interview, we asked Filner whether he believed the medical-marijuana industry should write and oversee its own regulations.
Filner said no, it shouldn't, and that he didn't know the initiative contained that provision when he endorsed it.
"I didn't have that impression when I read the thing," he said. "There is a tax that's going to be collected by the public authorities, right?"
Yes, the initiative would create a 2.5-percent tax and also identify zones for dispensaries. But certification and oversight would be managed by PCA, the only group that meets the legal requirements of an accrediting body in the measure.
Nevertheless, Filner said that he still supports the measure as a "political statement," though he thinks that the initiative would become moot if he's elected.
"I think this issue has to be moved forward and nobody is coming up with a way," he said. "I'm not mayor now. I would move it forward if I'm mayor in terms of ordinances and regulations... that would encourage but regulate medical marijuana. But given the fact I'm not mayor now and nothing is moving forward, I said anything that moved it forward I would support. I didn't get that when I read the initiative. If that's a problem we need to deal with it... I support it as a political statement to say we have to move forward on this."
Here's the video clip: