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San Diego mayor orders end to legal action against pot dispensaries

January 10, 2013 |  5:23 pm

At the order of newly elected Mayor Bob Filner, the city of San Diego is dropping legal action seeking to force a dozen marijuana dispensaries out of business.

In a memo Wednesday to the city official in charge of neighborhood code compliance, Filner ordered that "targeted code enforcement" against marijuana dispensaries be halted "immediately." The employee works for a department that reports to the mayor.

Filner's action means the city will no longer pursue a dozen cases against dispensaries filed on behalf of the code compliance staff and the Police Department, said City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. More than 100 dispensaries have been forced to close because of actions taken by the city attorney.

Filner appeared Tuesday night before a group favoring legalization of marijuana, referring to Goldsmith's actions as "persecution" and suggesting that the group may need to stage protests.

Goldsmith, hearing of the meeting, had a letter hand-delivered to Filner, agreeing to halt the remaining dozen cases and noting that his office filed the civil cases at the request of the code compliance staff and Police Department.

"Rather than pursue the drama last night and call for a demonstration, you could have achieved your goal in less than 30 seconds" with a phone call, Goldsmith wrote.

In a telephone interview, Goldsmith said, "Filner is a new mayor and he needs a period of adjustment."

Under city zoning regulations, there are no legal areas for marijuana dispensaries to operate in San Diego. The City Council adopted a marijuana zoning ordinance but dropped it in July 2011 in the face of opposition that said it was too restrictive.

Filner, speaking to the pro-marijuana group, suggested that the council should revisit the controversial issue of finding places where the pot businesses can operate. Filner, a Democrat, succeeded Jerry Sanders, a Republican, who endorsed closing down the dispensaries.

While Filner's action shuts down the city's legal action, U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy continues to order dispensaries to close, using the specter of federal criminal convictions and asset forfeiture.

Late Thursday, Filner issued a statement restating his support for making marijuana accessible for people "who legitimately need it for relief of pain." He said he will soon propose an ordinance allowing operation of dispensaries, although not near schools, playgrounds or anywhere that would harm neighborhoods.

"I believe that, in order to be a great city, we must also be a humane city and show compassion toward those who need help in dealing with chronic pain," he said.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Marijuana plant. Credit: Associated Press