Mayor Ed Lee Finally Breaks Silence on Medical Marijuana
April 11th, 2012
"If you get Ed Lee on record about medical marijuana," more than one
well-connected San Francisco politico has told us, "you deserve a
Our best efforts were all deflected, including a
situation when we physically blocked Mayor Lee's path to his hybrid
Mayoralmobile and still did not win a comment. So accolades are due to
Americans for Safe Access, which circulated a three-paragraph statement released by Mayor Ed Lee's office on Friday.
The mayor has stood silent while the federal Justice Department shut down five city-licensed dispensaries
and while San Francisco's health department paused and unpaused its
licensing program, so the words from Lee -- one of the lone members of
the city family absent from an April 3 pro-marijuana rally on the City
Hall steps -- have been a long time coming.
Firebrand it isn't.
The strongest words are "important", "concerned", and "agree," and no
action of any kind is promised or even recommended. But that such a
tepid statement would be so welcomed is a signal of how lukewarm our
mustachioed mayor has been on marijuana -- and how delicate the former
city administrator's relationship is with the medical marijuana
It's unclear why Lee took his time to sound off. Medical marijuana isn't
exactly controversial in San Francisco: The city had dispensaries long
before the 1996 Compassionate Use Act passed. It was also one of first
cities in California to license dispensaries -- a program that began in
2005. In contrast, Lee's predecessor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, was loud
and proud in his support for medical cannabis.
In 2007, Newsom
once went as far as to write a letter to Congress decrying raids.
Advocates have asked Mayor Lee to similarly use his bully pulpit to ask
San Francisco's Congressional delegation -- like Sen. Dianne Feinstein,
herself a former mayor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- to
step in and find out why President Barack Obama is shutting down
taxpaying cannabis dispensaries that are legal in both the city and the
state, but still violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
date, Lee has not done that (not as far as we know; the Mayor's press
office did not respond to a request seeking an answer to that question).
Nor has he done any of the actions demanded/begged
by Americans for Safe Access and the coalition of marijuana activists
and dispensaries called San Francisco United
, such as joining in on
the petition to reschedule marijuana, joining in on ASA's lawsuit
against the Justice Department, or taking steps to make it easier for
shuttered dispensaries that obeyed all local laws to be reopened.
in a statement not released to the press, Lee expressed his concern,
and cited no fewer than three reasons as to why he is "concerned" and
why medical pot is "legitimate."
"It is important
that San Franciscans who need medicinal cannabis can have safe access to
it - there are oncology patients, HIV/AIDS patients, and people with
debilitating pain who rely on this medicine to treat their conditions.
Public Health Director Barbara Garcia continually advises me that
legitimate use by people with certain medical conditions is an effective
way to treat pain and ease end-of-life suffering.
1996, when Proposition 215 first passed, the State of California and our
City have reaffirmed many times over our support of legitimate
medicinal use for people with serious illness. That's why I am concerned
about recent federal actions targeting duly permitted Medicinal
Cannabis Dispensaries, actions that aim to limit our citizens' ability
to have safe access to the medicine they need.
Time and time
again, the President of the United States has made it clear that the
Justice Department has more important priorities than working to prevent
patients from accessing this medicine. As long as San Francisco's
dispensaries and patients are operating within the guidelines set by
then-Attorney General Jerry Brown in 2008, I agree with our current
Attorney General Kamala Harris that raids should not occur. She has said
that 'an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more
difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended
medicine in California.'"
And that was it. But "it was
more than I thought we would get," said one dispensary operator, who
added that activists sat on the floor outside Lee's office on Friday
until the mayor's chief of staff, Steve Kawa, came out to see them.
glad Mayor Lee has taken a stand to support and protect safe access in
San Francisco," said David Goldman, one of the core members of the San
Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access.