Apparently nostalgic for the bad old days of pot paraphernalia raids, our law enforcement friends down in San Diego have taken time off from pursuing what seem to be less pressing matters -- like, you know, murder and rape and stuff -- to bust four smoke shops for selling marijuana pipes.
Oh, maybe it wasn't nostalgia, you say? Well then, perhaps it was petty vindictiveness and frustration at San Diego County's recent loss -- at the U.S. Supreme Court level! -- in its fight against issuing medical marijuana ID cards to patients. Come to think of it, that would fit right in with the macho, authoritarian attitude of disdain towards marijuana and its users -- even the medical ones -- that seems to be so prevalent in San Diego city government.
San Diego Police Department Captain Miguel Rosario of the narcotics division claimed the raids, which happened on June 18, came in response to "numerous citizen complaints" and subsequent police investigations in which "underage operatives" purchased paraphernalia at the shops in early June.
"Our approach is when the community says there is a problem, we've always been a very responsive police department," Rosario told the Peninsula Beacon. "We're going to respond when we get complaints that any type of crime is occurring."
The stores raided were Freak Factory in Mission Beach, 420 Smoke Shop in Ocean Beach, Smoke-n-Stuff in Mission Valley, and Up In Smoke in the College Area. The clerks on duty in the shops received misdemeanor charges and could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and forfeiture of paraphernalia items, according to Kristine Lorenzo of the San Diego City Attorney's Office advisory division.
Capt. Rosario said police seized items that are illegal to sell and possess according to California Health and Safety Code Section 11364.7, including marijuana pipes, bongs, and even grinders used to separate stems and seeds from marijuana.
"If it's illegal we take it," Rosario said. adding: "[Citizens] feel that when they sell paraphernalia it brings in clientele that are involved in the smoking of marijuana and that brings crime.That's the perception."
Rosario's marijuana fixation and the raids themselves represent an apparent hardening of attitudes on the part of the SDPD under new City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, a retired superior court judge who assumed the office of city attorney in December 2008.
In November 2007, Goldsmith's predecessor, Mike Aguirre, had sent letters to head shop owners warning them to stop selling anything that could be classified as "drug paraphernalia" under California law (which technically defines drug paraphernalia as anything that can be used to consume drugs). But Aguirre then tried to "clarify" and soften the letter, saying he was only going after materials used to smoke "hard" drugs like crack cocaine or methamphetamines, rather than marijuana.
Aguirre continued to draw that distinction in April 2008, referring to how he was going after shops "selling paraphernalia for these hard drugs." He also pointed out that many of the shops receiving letters had stopped selling meth and crack pipes voluntarily.
But Dr. Cleo Malone, who runs the drug rehabilitation center Palavra Tree -- funded in part by San Diego County -- told San Diego's Last Blog On Earth at that time that he saw no real difference between marijuana and hard drugs, and he looked forward to closing down all the head shops in San Diego.
So, with Goldsmith's ascendancy to city attorney, has Dr. Malone's hard-line attitude (totally unsupported by science, if that matters) towards marijuana become the official policy of the San Diego Police Department? It sure looks that way.
Or maybe they really are still just steamed about losing that Supreme Court decision.
By Steve Elliott
Friday June 26, 2009
San Francisco Weekly