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San Francisco to Consider Growing Pot After Prop. S Passes

November 07, 2002|John M. Glionna | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials here will name a panel to seriously consider entering the pot-growing business now that voters have approved a measure directing them to study whether this city should cultivate and sell its own medical marijuana.

In what officials called a first-step gesture of defiance against the federal government's zero-tolerance marijuana policy, voters passed Proposition S by a 2-1 ratio.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno said officials will name a three-member committee to "hold hearings and bring in professional expertise," exploring legal and medical ramifications of the program.

"We're breaking new ground here," Leno said. "Our mission is to fulfill the will of the voters."

The success of the controversial measure, which was not backed by Mayor Willie Brown, has miffed federal officials, who have made arrests at medicinal pot clubs in San Francisco and elsewhere in California.

"The mayor of San Francisco has said publicly he doesn't think the city should get into the pot-growing business, and we support him," said Richard Meyer, a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in San Francisco. "It's an illegal substance."

Brown spokesman P.J. Johnston said the mayor did not take a position on Proposition S. Though a supporter of citizen access to medical marijuana, Brown doesn't believe the measure moves in the right direction. "It's a little too wacky, even for San Francisco," Johnston said.

Other issues settled by California voters Tuesday ranged from the substantive to the quirky.

* In Oakland, a city recently racked by homicides, voters passed a measure to hire 100 police officers but defeated a companion tax measure that would have paid for them.

Erica Herrold, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jerry Brown, called the election outcome "bittersweet."

In a city suffering from considerable budget deficits, "we really don't know how we're going to pay for these officers," she said.

"But Mayor Brown is committed to rolling up his sleeves and finding a way to accomplish the voter mandate. We're going to have to look at some creative financing."

* In adjacent Berkeley, residents soundly rejected an initiative that would have required that all coffee in city cafes be grown in an environmentally friendly way and sold at a "fair trade" price as a way to help struggling Third World growers. Opponents of Measure O, which would have tripled the price paid to growers, defeated the proposal by a 70% margin.

* In San Francisco, voters also passed a measure to change the way the city assists the homeless. Sponsored by Supervisor Gavin Newsom, a mayoral hopeful, Proposition N slashes city welfare payments made to about 3,000 people from $395 to just $59 a month, using the savings to create more affordable housing and services.

In a split decision on urban sprawl, California voters rejected large development projects Tuesday, but balked at imposing new limits on home building in cities around the state.

Voters blocked construction of thousands of new dwellings in Ventura and Alameda counties, but in a litmus test for just how far activists could go, a second generation of growth controls failed in Sonoma County, Berkeley and Simi Valley.

And an environmental backlash measure in rural Nevada County, which would have reimbursed property owners when local regulations prevented full development of their land, also lost handily.

Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant said voters realized the measure would have drained county coffers and set a dangerous precedent.

In San Diego, Superior Court Judge Bonnie Dumanis defeated Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst, a two-term incumbent. Pfingst's reelection bid was hurt by a vote of no confidence from his deputies and controversy over his handling of several high-profile cases.

Although Dumanis is leading Pfingst by nearly 3,000 votes, 80,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted. But Pfingst all but conceded the election in an e-mail to his staff.

Times staff writers Jenifer Ragland in Ventura, Tony Perry in San Diego and special correspondent Emily Gurnon in Eureka contributed to this report.

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