Timeline: Medical Marijuana in San Diego

A look at the 17 years in San Diego since Prop 215 was passed.

By R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014  |  Updated 2:57 PM PDT
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Here is a look at the legal battles, voter initiatives, federal government policy announcements and ordinances passed on the local level as a result of the passage of Prop 215 making it legal to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state of California. The information and dates were pulled from the NBC 7 San Diego archives.

Nov. 5, 1996
Prop 215 was passed in California making it legal to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.

July 1997
The San Diego Cannabis Care Givers Club set up shop in Ocean Beach, growing cannabis on the premises.

January 1998
During a law enforcement raid at the Valley Center Cannabis Club, officers admitted even they were confused about what was legal and illegal after the passage of Prop 215. Club founder Steve McWilliams was arrested for possession but the DA declined to press charges stating they did not have enough information.

March 1998
Steve McWilliams was arraigned on charges of growing, transporting and selling marijuana. The case proved to be the county’s first legal test of the state’s medical marijuana law.

January 1999
A government advisory panel looked into the use of medical marijuana and found it can offer quick relief to people suffering from diseases such as AIDS and cancer. The panel found it can also treat symptoms of anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting.

August 29, 2000
The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) was established at UC San Diego under a state grant to assess the use of cannabis as an alternative for treating specific medical conditions.

May 14, 2001
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled there was no medical exception to federal marijuana laws meaning that it was still illegal to sell or distribute the drug even when state laws, like those in California, allow it.

August 2001
New Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Asa Hutchinson vowed to enforce the federal ban on medical marijuana.

A Gallup poll showed support for legalizing marijuana at its highest level in 30 years.

October 2002
The San Diego City Marijuana Tax Force recommended that people authorized to use marijuana be allowed to grow or possess a maximum of 3 pounds of the plant. Caregivers would be allowed to grow or possess 90 plants and 9 pounds of the herb.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors votes against the San Diego City Marijuana Tax Force recommendation.

October 29, 2002
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government cannot revoke the prescription licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana to sick patients.

February 2003
San Diego City Council voted 6-3 directing the City Attorney to draw up ordinances as part of a two-year pilot program allowing patients to possess up to 1-pound of pot. Caregivers can possess up to 2-pounds.

June 2003
California lawmakers approved identity cards to protect medical marijuana users from arrest.

September 2003
San Diego City Councilmembers adopted new guidelines for use of medical marijuana including city-issued identification cards to qualified patients and caregivers.

November 29, 2004
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether states or the federal government has the final word on which drugs should be outlawed.

June 6, 2005
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal authorities can prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribed marijuana to ease pain. The court found that state laws don’t protect users from a federal ban on the drug.

July 11, 2005
Local medical marijuana activist Steve McWilliams committed suicide.

November 3, 2005
The County Board of Supervisors decided to face legal action rather than set up a state-ordered medical identification card and registry program.

December 12, 2005
Federal agents raided more than a dozen medical marijuana businesses in San Diego and San Marcos. Agents said the businesses were selling marijuana to customers who did not have written prescriptions from doctors.

December 2005
San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 215, California’s medical marijuana law.

April 2006
The Food and Drug Administration publically spoke out against medical marijuana saying that smoked marijuana not only has not been proven effective as a medicine, it’s also not safe.

November 2006
The county’s legal challenge to Prop 215 was rejected in a ruling that stated California can decriminalize a drug even though it’s illegal under federal law.

January 24, 2008
The California Supreme Court ruled employers can fire workers for using medical marijuana on or off the clock.

October 2008
The California Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal from San Diego County in the legal battle over issuing medical marijuana identification cards. The county has until January to petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

March 18, 2009
The Obama Administration said it has no plans to prosecute California stores that legally dispense marijuana for medical use.

May 2009
The Oceanside City Council approved a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

May 19, 2009
The U.S. Supreme Court denied San Diego County’s last attempt at challenging Prop 215. The high court refused to hear the suit brought by San Diego and San Bernardino Counties.

July 6, 2009
The San Diego County Health Department began accepting applications for medical marijuana identification cards.

August 5, 2009
San Diego County Supervisors approved a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries saying they need time for staff to develop land-use regulations. Similar moratoriums existed in Chula Vista and National City.

September 8, 2009

San Diego City Council voted to create a Medical Marijuana Task Force to develop recommendations on how to regulate marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

September 16, 2009
San Diego County Supervisors extended the temporary moratorium on dispensaries for an additional 10 months.

October 30, 2009
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office reported there were 58 active medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of San Diego, 13 more in the county and 65 delivery services.

June 30, 2010
Supervisors approved rules for marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas putting them in industrial zones, at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, churches and playgrounds.

July 2010
A new policy was enacted stating that patients of the Veterans Administration cannot be denied any care or be forced to enter a drug rehab program if they’re using medical marijuana.

Sept. 13, 2010
San Diego City Council voted 6-1 on a measure to create zones for medical marijuana sales that was similar to those restrictions approved by the county.

March 28, 2011
San Diego City Council voted 5-2 to confine dispensaries to light industrial and commercial area keeping them at least 600 feet from homes and other sensitive areas such as schools, churches, parks and playgrounds.

July 8, 2011
The DEA ruled marijuana has “no accepted medical use” and is considered illegal under federal law regardless of conflicting state legislation.

July 25, 2011
After opponents to the new dispensary guidelines collected enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, San Diego’s City Council voted to not enforce the new law limiting the number and location of marijuana cooperatives.

September 2011
It is estimated that approximately 1 million Californians hold a medical marijuana card. 

October 13, 2011
Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law.

October 17, 2011

The California Medical Association called for the legalization of marijuana, saying such a move will allow doctors to better study the drug and counsel their patients about its use. 

January 17, 2012
Poway passed a permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

July and August 2012
Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach city leaders approve voter ballot initiatives to decide whether marijuana dispensaries should operate within city limits.

November 7, 2012
Voters in Solana Beach rejected Measure W. Del Mar voters defeated Measure H. Lemon Grove voters rejected Measure T. Imperial Beach residents defeated Measure S. Encinitas failed to get its initiative on the ballot.

January 10, 2013
Newly-elected San Diego Mayor Bob Filner asked the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department and Police Department to temporarily halt prosecution of city zoning code violations when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries.

February 27, 2013
A new Field Poll reveals 54 percent of polled voters favor marijuana legalization – the highest approval number for the issue in the poll’s history.

April 12, 2013
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act was introduced in Congress. The bill would protect individual marijuana consumers, as well as businesses operating in states where they are legal from federal prosecution.

April 23, 2013
San Diego city leaders mull permits for marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Under the proposal, dispensaries could operate in commercial and industrial areas for a $5,000 yearly permit fee and a 2-percent city tax on sales. 

May 6, 2013
The California Supreme Court said neither the state's voter-approved law legalizing medical marijuana nor a companion measure adopted by the Legislature prevent local governments from using their land use and zoning powers to prohibit storefront dispensaries.

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