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Pot committed: S.F. doubles up on its pot task force 

Wednesday, Dec 23 2009

Supervisor David Campos recently announced his intention to create a medical marijuana task force to advise him and his board colleagues on issues involving the "compassionate community." The 13-member panel, Campos said, would include people who grow, distribute, and use medical pot as well as community leaders.

Sounds groovy enough, but that description also calls to mind another marijuana-focused group established not too long ago by the Board of Supes: the Community Oversight Committee Regarding Enforcement of Marijuana Offenses.

That committee, by the way, has been a complete failure.

It was created in 2006 along with Chapter 12X — an ordinance that was supposed to make marijuana busts the lowest priority of city law enforcement. The committee's duties included gathering information — like statistics from the police — to ensure that the ordinance wasn't being ignored, taking statements from folks who were unnecessarily busted, submitting reports on its findings, and recommending policy changes to the Board of Supervisors.

At this point, almost none of that is actually happening. According to Cathy Smith, a dispensary owner and committee member, the SFPD repeatedly deflected the group's attempts to acquire data on marijuana busts in the city.

"We have gotten jack from the police department," Smith said. "They tell us they can't gather it, because they would have to do it all by hand and it's too much work."

To Smith, marijuana offenses certainly don't seem like the lowest priority of the city right now, and she should know. During her tenure on the committee, Smith has had her dispensary raided by the SFPD.

"I found that rather disturbing," she said.

For the past several months, the three-year-old committee hasn't even been meeting due to a lack of members, Smith said. Apparently, there are too many empty seats and until two are filled, there will not be a quorum.

"I attended every meeting the first year of it and watched it fall apart," said Dr. Michael Aldrich, a 40-year marijuana activist who, though not a member himself, keeps a folder on the committee, although at the moment it is missing.

There were political problems Aldrich said he didn't want to get into, but he also said the committee had no way of forcing the police department or other agencies to hand over their statistics. The group had no teeth.

Aldrich and those who serve on the committee say they hope it will rebound, and they also have high hopes for the medical marijuana task force.

We caught up with Campos at the Cannabis Town Hall 2010 (it was unclear if the organizers were aware it was still 2009) and asked whether the existing committee and the new task force might have troubling similarities. He emphasized that the task force has a different focus, a much broader one. "The policy task force advises on anything related to cannabis," he said. With the recent relaxation of the U.S. Department of Justice's marijuana enforcement policy and Attorney General Jerry Brown's cushy 2008 pot guidelines, there's a new reality, he said, that a task force could capitalize on in San Francisco.

Maybe it was the weed-laced tiramisu we accidentally ate, but it sort of sounded like Campos was talking about creating a larger group with more responsibilities, even after a small, focused group of the same ilk had failed. "We are not just trying to create a government bureaucracy," he assured us. "Others are looking to see how we do this."

About The Author

Ashley Harrell


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