Ammiano is introducing legislation to compel the SFPD to stop wasting time on pot crimes. Isn't that like taking police off of victimless crimes? Do"h! See our Police Petition.
Pot crimes may get less police attention
Supervisor proposes making marijuana busts a low priority
- Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Famously tolerant San Francisco could become an even friendlier place for pot smokers if the Board of Supervisors passes legislation that proclaims most marijuana violations "the lowest law enforcement priority" for city police.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced the legislation last month before supervisors took a four-week late-summer break. His nonbinding ordinance directs police to essentially ignore all marijuana crimes except those involving minors, driving under the influence of the drug or the sale of marijuana in a public place.
Ammiano said Monday that his legislation is consistent with Proposition W -- a measure passed by 64 percent of city voters back in 1978 that called for an end to marijuana arrests and prosecutions -- and with city policy permitting the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
"It bears a revisit," Ammiano said. "This is catching us up to what today is bringing us. I think it's definitely worth a look."
If passed, the ordinance would commit the city to refusing federal funds intended for the investigation or prosecution of marijuana offenses. It also would prevent a federal agency from commissioning or deputizing a city police officer for assistance in such cases.
Under the ordinance, an oversight committee of 11 members appointed by supervisors would review police arrest records to determine whether law enforcement is taking a hands-off approach to marijuana offenses.
Ammiano's ordinance has been assigned to the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee of the Board of Supervisors and will be the subject of a hearing in the coming weeks.
The legislation has the full support of groups pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana at the federal and state level, such as the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
"The public would be better off to stop wasting money arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for marijuana, and to start collecting tax money from them instead," said Dale Gieringer of NORML's California chapter.
According to the group, San Francisco police arrested more than 1,000 people in 2004 for marijuana-related crimes, and the city spent between $2.5 million and $8 million prosecuting them.
Ammiano said he hopes San Francisco's law enforcement community will agree with his legislation.
District Attorney Kamala Harris' office did not respond for requests for comment about the possible downgrading of marijuana-related crimes. Likewise, the San Francisco Police Department declined to discuss the proposed policy measure. A spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice said city officials will examine the legislation as it nears a vote by supervisors.
Camilla Field, a spokeswoman for the Drug Policy Alliance, said getting cities to adopt legislation like Ammiano's is the best path to decriminalizing marijuana on a national level. With violent crime edging up in San Francisco, a police officer's time is better spent not worrying about marijuana use, she said.
"It's really not trying to take away any tools of police officers," Field said. "We just think they should focus their attention elsewhere."
Cities such as Oakland, West Hollywood, Denver and Seattle already have adopted such policies. Voters in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica will decide on similar initiatives in November.
"We believe that we need to move in this direction," Field said. "Society is increasingly moving in this direction."
E-mail Charlie Goodyear at cgoodyear@....