potlede.jpgTaraval District captain accused of “lobbying” against proposed dispensary

Law enforcement and medicinal cannabis have had a rocky relationship in California since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996, but marijuana patients in San Francisco have had an easier time than counterparts in, say, Riverside County. After all, as recently as last month a San Francisco police spokesman told media that dispensaries reduce crime in the neighborhoods in which they operate.

But SFPD’s role in determining whether or not medicinal cannabis dispensaries can open up was thrown into question Wednesday night. At Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting, commissioner Petra DeJesus suggested Taraval Station Captain Denise Schmitt inappropriately “lobbied” the Planning Department against a dispensary opening up in her district.

DeJesus referred to a letter dated Feb. 22 signed by Schmitt and addressed to the Planning Department (page 2 on the PDF), who is responsible for land-use issues like the opening of a dispensary. In the letter, Schmitt says she has “concern” over a proposed dispensary wishing to do business on Taraval Street at 32nd Avenue. “MCDs have proven an attractive target for violent criminals,” Schmitt wrote. “Dispensaries have experienced take-over robberies, burglaries, shootings, stabbings, fights and homicides. Additionally, criminals target the pedestrian traffic in and around MCDs for strong-arm and armed robberies… These potential side effects of an MCD are very concerning given the residential character of the neighborhood.” Sales to children, perhaps students at nearby Lincoln High, are “predictable,” Schmitt added.

Schmitt’s statements would seem to contradict the words of her department’s spokesman mentioned above. Most importantly, a letter from a district police captain also carries significant weight with the Planning Department, who will decide May 20 whether or not BACH may do business. DeJesus called Schmitt on the carpet for writing the letter, and also questioned the veracity of the letter’s allegations.

“This is a really political letter,” DeJesus said. “This is a letter, I’m surprised to see, actually.”

“Should the department be lobbying or opposing access to [medical] marijuana, which is legal in this state?” asked DeJesus, who challenged Schmitt — and Police Chief George Gas?on, who was in attendance — to back up the statements regarding crime cannabis dispensaries. “If you take it upon yourself to oppose the dispensary,” she asked, “what statistics have you?”

A visibly irritated Gas?on told DeJesus he would provide statistics at the next Police Commission hearing.

When asked about the conflict after the meeting, Gas?on politely declined to speak to the Appeal, and directed questions SFPD’s media office, which did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Schmitt received support from police commissioner Thomas Mazzucco, who touted his experience with marijuana as a federal prosecutor (putting pot growers in jail, presumably, but who’s counting?).

“I’ve seen those sites as a prosecutor that have put neighborhoods at risk,” he said. “I think our police captains have every First Amendment right in the world to write a letter if they’re asked to do so by people in their neighborhoods and express their opinions.”

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