When pressed for an official response to Colorado and Washington marijuana laws yesterday in a Senate Subcommittee meeting, Attorney General Eric Holder again balked at giving any real answer - only to again say that his office will comment soon. All this just one day after former DEA chiefs and the United Nations demand that he take action to stop laws in Colorado and Washington.

In harshly-toned threat issued Tuesday to the United States, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board told the U.S. government to stop all current and pending Federal and state-level legislation regarding medical and recreational marijuana use. But are they just empty threats?

The UN narcotics watchdog panel urged that immediate action be taken against all pro-cannabis legislation, citing a surge in legal highs (isn't that a good thing?). The panel called medical marijuana laws in certain states "inappropriate" but saved its most crude criticisms for recent legislation passed in Colorado and Washington, calling democratically passed laws in those states a "threat to public health and wellbeing".

Got that? Some mustachioed power brokers from the other side of the pond are trying to tell us that the people in Colorado and Washington don't know what's good for the people of Colorado and Washington.

Almost on cue in the same day, a press release from several ex-DEA chiefs slamming the laws in Colo. and Wash., demanding that U.S. Attorney Eric Holder take action and nullify the laws. Predictably, they make the same tired, old arguments:

"We, the undersigned, strongly support the continued enforcement of federal law prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, sale, possession, and use of marijuana -- a dangerous and addictive drug which already has severe harmful effects on American society."

They go on to remind Holder about his position in 2010 when California voters were considering a legalization initiative in that state. Just in case even Holder forgot what he said, the ex-drug warriors kindly quoted him:

"Regardless of the passage of this or similar legislation, the Department of Justice will remain firmly committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in all states. Prosecution of those who manufacture, distribute, or posses any illegal drugs including marijuana and the disruption of drug trafficking organizations is a core priority of the Department. Accordingly, we will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organization that possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

They even call medical marijuana a canard. Yes, a canard. They sound like geezers wagging their boney old fingers at kids playing on their lawn.

All this grandstanding shows that with public support for legalization at an all-time high on the national level and with talk turning from medical to recreational, those opposed to cannabis are feeling the pressure increasing.

Scott Chipman, with San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, a group that opposes marijuana dispensaries, said he understands the mayor wants to help the seriously ill, but the proposed ordinance disregards the negative impacts pot shops will have on neighborhoods. He also expressed concern that there doesn’t appear to be any proposed means to track who is providing marijuana to the stores or who is buying their products.

“There is a general sense that with proper regulation these pot shops will comply,” Chipman said. “That has proven to be incorrect hundreds of times in San Diego. These operators are not willing to follow state or city regulations. Even now we have pot shops opening illegally in communities with the anticipation of a new ordinance. No matter how you try to regulate these stores the facts will remain: They are selling primarily to healthy recreational users and accessing large amounts of marijuana from illegal growers and marijuana cartels. The ordinance will not stop that.”

Filner said he is proposing the $5,000 fee and 2 percent tax as ways for the city to recoup the costs of allowing dispensaries to operate.

“I also want a high enough fee that the fly-by-night guys are not just opening up like a corner store, but low enough so we don’t say you can’t be in business,” he said. “So it’s a balancing act.”

The City Council had been set to consider the medical marijuana issue at its March 25 meeting but that hearing will now likely be used to discuss community development block grants which need to be considered by March 26 to meet federal requirements.

Council President Todd Gloria is working on a new hearing date for the mayor’s proposal which would allow time for public comment and council discussion.

It’s hard to predict how the council will vote on Filner’s plan or if they will amend it in some way. Four current council members -- Gloria, Marti Emerald, Kevin Faulconer and Sherri Lightner -- supported the 2011 ordinance while Lorie Zapf didn’t think it went far enough and David Alvarez said it was too restrictive. Newer council members Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman have never voted on the issue.


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