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COMMENTARY: Bonnie Dumanis sets her record straight on medicinal marijuana

(Editor's note: Bonnie Dumanis has served as San Diego County District Attorney since 2002. She lives in Little Italy with her spouse Denise and their dog Abby. A Republican, Dumanis is a candidate for mayor of San Diego. All candidates are allowed to submit two pieces per month for our Commentary page. Editor in Chief Ken Williams can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, KenSanDiego on Twitter or at (877) 727-5446, x713.)

A lot of important issues are being discussed as part of the race for San Diego mayor, but often when I speak to groups in the LGBT community, I am asked about my position on one issue in particular -- medical marijuana. Just as often, I see a look of surprise and skepticism when I tell people that I absolutely support the legitimate, legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

I have known friends suffering from debilitating, and sometimes fatal, diseases whose only relief from nausea or lack of appetite was marijuana. The law provides for the compassionate, medicinal use of marijuana and I support it. Let me say that again: I support the legitimate, lawful use of medical marijuana.

In spite of being on the record with my support for years, many people have been led to believe I do not support the use of medicinal marijuana. News stories have labeled me as a "medical marijuana opponent." Unfortunately, the opinion of a few has become the misperception of some.

As District Attorney, I have had a very specific role -- to enforce the law. I don’t make arrests, I don't target medical marijuana dispensaries and I don’t choose who gets shut down. The law simply requires me to file charges in the cases of illegal drug sales that the police department brings to our office. Under my direction, the District Attorney's Office has never prosecuted a legitimate patient for simply possessing marijuana.

But let me be clear. What I do not support is drug dealers hiding behind Proposition 215 to sell marijuana for profit to people who don't need it for medical reasons, selling to our children and even selling to people who have prescriptions in the names of their pets. There are many examples where flagrant violators of the law hide shamefully behind a poorly written initiative and law. It's just not legal to sell marijuana for profit, whether it's out of a storefront or on a street corner.

The specific issue of medical marijuana storefronts could soon be moot in the near future because marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, which trumps state law. As the U.S. Attorney has warned, the federal government will seize the assets of local, "for profit" stores that engage in illegal drug trafficking under the guise of providing medical marijuana.

Regardless of what happens to the storefronts, the City of San Diego will still have to wrestle with how to comply with the spirit of the law. Some of those who need medicinal marijuana are the sickest and neediest among us. It's important that they are provided with legitimate access. That's what Californians intended and voted for when they passed the law.

As mayor, I will bring all levels of government together, trying to coordinate a lasting, legal solution. I will leverage my long-standing relationships with law enforcement, business leaders and community activists to bring differing ideas and viewpoints to the table. And I will work with the City Council to pass an ordinance that allows for implementation of Proposition 215 in a way that offers compassion to those who need it, but also protects our children and our neighborhoods.

I encourage voters to seek out the positions of my opponents on medical marijuana. We are at a crossroads, in part because the original voter-approved proposition and the subsequent Senate Bill were both poorly written laws that continue to need clarification through additional state legislation. Voters passed the Compassionate Use Act 15 years ago. This has been going on too long for us not to get it right.