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Pot activists in San Diego fail in bid for ballot measure

Pot activists in San Diego fail in bid for ballot measure
San Diego marijuana activists Monday conceded defeat in their bid to qualify a ballot measure that would permit dispensaries to operate legally within the city.

Activists, under the banner of Citizens for Patients Rights, said they lack the funds to mount a successful petition campaign to gather enough signatures to force a recalcitrant City Council to put a measure on the ballot.

San Diego does not have an ordinance regulating where marijuana dispensaries can operate, and the city attorney has declared all dispensaries to be operating illegally.

The City Council fashioned an ordinance but rescinded it in July 2011 rather than permit an initiative supported by marijuana activists from reaching the ballot. The activists had argued that the ordinance was too restrictive and had led a signature-gathering campaign to qualify a repeal for the ballot.

Thwarted in that effort, the activists began a new campaign, which Monday was declared dead.

At its height, the city had more than 150 medical marijuana dispensaries. City Atty. Jan Goldsmith and U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy have warned the dispensaries that they are violating both federal and municipal law. More than 100 have been forced to close; others have given up voluntarily, activists said.

Despite the failure in San Diego, activists still hope to qualify marijuana measures for suburban cities, including Del Mar, Lemon Grove, Solana Beach, Encinitas and La Mesa.

If dispensaries can open in those cities, said James Schmachtenberger, president of the Patient Care Assn., it "will provide some measure of relief to our patients."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Marijuana plant. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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