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Medical Marijuana Users and Law Enforcement
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Feds Rattle Sabers on Marijuana Laws / Monterey County Herald
Feds Rattle Sabers on Marijuana Laws / Monterey County Herald

Monterey County Herald, Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Guest Commentary by Richard Rosen


The federal crackdown against medical marijuana in California is a saber-rattling, War on Drugs attack on many fronts.  U.S. Attorneys are raiding legitimate dispensaries and licensed growers.

The prosecutors have threatened to seize the property of landlords that permit legal dispensaries to operate.  The government is threatening newspapers and other media that dare to advertise medical marijuana.  The fifteen other states with medical marijuana laws are watching and worrying.

The true scope of this “crackdown” is difficult to measure. The prosecutors claim that they are only targeting certain dispensaries and large-scale growers, to protect the patients from “profiteers”.

The prosecutors say they will not interfere with “legitimate” patients, but the federal policy is driven by drug police who do not believe that any patient is “legitimate.” 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning there is no legal medical use. Under the federal drug laws, there is nothing legal in the state medical marijuana laws.

What is clear is that President Obama has broken his promise to the American people.  He promised that he would not use federal law enforcement against the state medical marijuana programs, but that is exactly what he is doing.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Rep. Sam Farr and many others have called upon the federal authorities to back off, but to no avail.

The federal “crackdown” is fraught with unintended consequences. The prosecutors are focused on closing the “profiteering” dispensaries (where operations are regulated, sales are taxed, and doctor recommendations are verified).  The patients can easily go back to buying on the black market (where operations are not regulated, sales are not taxed and recommendations are not verified).

The profits of the dispensaries will not disappear.  The profits will just be shifted to the black market dealers. Now, what part of this outcome do they think is an improvement? 

The U.S. Attorneys and the DEA can inflict a lot of damage, but in the long run, they cannot close down California’s medical marijuana program. They will fail because they can do little about the biggest players on the board: the estimated one million medical marijuana patients, supplied by thousands of small-scale growers.

If all the dispensaries disappeared overnight, these people are still not going away.

Californians are a resourceful bunch. They have developed a cottage industry of predominantly small, mom and pop gardens that produce some of the best cannabis in the world. They do not need international drug cartels. They do not need dispensaries. They do not need no stinking licenses. They can take care of themselves.

Remember Prohibition? It still doesn’t work.


Richard Rosen is a lawyer in Salinas and a member of the NORML Legal Committee.

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