Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Cultivation in SF Hard to Regulate
Marijuana enforcement can be tricky for city's police
By: Tamara Barak Aparton
Examiner Staff Writer
August 11, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — In the aftermath of a string of Sunset district
pot-growing busts, police say they are walking a fine line between city
policy and public safety.
Capt. Denis O'Leary, who heads the Police Department's narcotics
division, told police commissioners last week that officers are
wrestling with how to enforce marijuana-cultivati on laws much the same
way they struggled with the legal ambiguity of cannabis clubs several
On Nov. 22, 2006, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation, sponsored
by then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano, to make marijuana enforcement the Police
Department's lowest priority. Police were to essentially ignore most
pot offenses unless they involved violence, use by minors, sales on city
property or driving under the influence.
Today, pot arrests typically stem from tips from citizens, O'Leary
"We can't turn a deaf ear to complaints from neighbors," he
said. "A lot of these grows are occurring in a residence. You have a
high fire danger, a dense community. I think we have a duty to find out
what's going on."
Outgoing Police Commission President Theresa Sparks compared the need
for clarity surrounding The City's pot laws to those of its
sanctuary city policies.
"This commission, at some point, needs to probably get involved in
the dialogue of this marijuana issue," she said.
On Wednesday, police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents
raided three homes in the Sunset district, seizing thousands of
marijuana plants. Police have reported uncovering 23 indoor growing
operations in the Sunset and Ingleside neighborhoods in the past six
Sometimes people lived in the residences, other times water and
electricity had been set on timers, with growers checking in every few
days, O'Leary said.
Despite the large haul last week, marijuana cultivation accounts for
only 10 percent of the cases handled by the narcotics division. Police
normally arrest people on marijuana-related charges only when called for
a more serious offense, O'Leary said.
Growers themselves are frequent targets for violence, he said.
"They're assaulted, they're robbed. There have been murders
associated with marijuana grows in San Francisco," O'Leary said.
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