Heaven for Medical Marijuana Patients Is Hell for the DOJ

A few weeks ago, when they announced "coordinated enforcement actions" against medical marijuana dispensaries, California's four U.S. attorneys cited eight pot shops in a single Orange County strip mall as evidence that the wacky weed had run amuck. The Associated Press reports that all eight have since closed, in response to a letter from André Birotte, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, threatening the landlord with forfeiture and/or prosecution if the dispensaries continued to operate after October 21 (last Friday). A.P. says the city of Lake Forest, where the strip mall is located, sought Birotte's help because its municipal code "prohibits businesses that violate state or federal law" and the dispensaries "weren't complying with zoning enforcement actions that sought to close them down."

Lest you think the Justice Department is acting only in response to complaints from local or state officials about illegal dispensaries, Toke of the Town notes that the federal crackdown is also affecting medical marijuana suppliers in Sacramento, which licenses and taxes them (on top of the sales tax collected by the state):

The California Cannabis Association estimates that the city of Sacramento has taken in more than $2 million in taxes, permits and fees from medical marijuana dispensaries in the past year. The city's Economic Development Committee doesn't dispute that number, reports KCRA.

Each of the dispensaries had to go through a lengthy permit process of three different phases, costing more than $20,000, according to the Economic Development Department. The city also gets a four percent sales tax on dispensary profits from selling marijuana, said Maurice Chaney, representing the department. According to Chaney, 35 dispensaries are going through the permitting process....

Sacramento froze the permitting process after the federal crackdown on dispensaries in California was announced.

More generally, despite their emphasis on "large commercial operations" that "cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people," the feds are not making any allowance for nonprofit distribution of medical marijuana by patient collectives/cooperatives, which California's courts and governor say is permitted under state law. According to Birotte, there is no such thing as a noncommercial dispensary. "We have yet to find a single instance in which a marijuana store was able to prove that it was a not-for-profit organization," he said earlier this month. His colleague Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, likewise says all dispensaries are fair game, whether or not they comply with state law. So much for Attorney General Eric Holder's assurance that "the policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law."

In addition to highlighting the Obama administration's broken promise of a more tolerant medical marijuana policy, the Toke of the Town report offers a consumer's take on the horror of side-by-side dispensaries:

It was like heaven...I got treated like a queen. One of the collectives had a frequent buyer program punch card. You got a free eighth after 10 donations and a free preroll with any edible....It's going to be missed by hundreds of patients, possibly thousands....The competition was crazy. It drove down prices from 60 to 40 cap for top shelf. Every shop had a sign outside the door announcing specials. And in the middle was a head shop, which was convenient.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Warty||

  • jtuf||

    Say hello to the new president, same as the old president.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'd love to see someone, anyone, ask Obama why he wants to punish cancer and AIDS patients. Sadly, that's almost certainly not going to happen.

  • ||

  • Grow Operator||

    Marijuana is super easy and cheap to grow yourself if all you are interested in is a supply for one person. It is hard to produce the really good stuff on your own as a beginner, but people should keep this in mind if the crack down continues. And don't forget to support your local Cannabis merchants who don't deal to kids and mess around with gains. Be a patriot and smoke local!

  • Grow Operator||

    *don't mess around with gangs. fuck im high

  • jasno||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

    For the people who need medicine the most, this is the least preferred option. People with weakened immune systems don't need mold sources in the next room.

    Yes, anyone can grow it. No, not everyone should.

    Even if they close the dispensaries, nothing is going to change. People will still form networks, and patients will still get their meds. The only difference is the commercial real-estate market with suffer, along with local tax receipts.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Mold sources?

    Dude. You know not of what you speak. Mold is about the easiest of maladies to take care of in any indoor grow room (and I'm not talking just for pot). A small dehumidifier will do the trick just great.

  • jasno||

    Dirt is inherently... dirty... you're always going to have soil microorganisms sporulating.

    Hydro.. you could theoretically have a clean grow, if you bleach the shit out of it every week - including taking apart all pumps, emitters, etc. Otherwise, you've got a breeding ground. Does that sound like something a cancer patient should be doing?

  • Skr||

    Plus they are busy having cancer.

  • Skr||

    The thing about a compromised immune system is that you really need to avoid any potential vector for that sort of thing. A hydro system with large quantities in a room is a breeding ground for all sorts or things that would be harmless to most everyone but deadly to someone with a compromised immune system even with a dehumidifier.

  • Skr||

    Large quantities of water, dammit.

  • ||

    OK, so someone get's paid to write this shit:
    The city also gets a four percent sales tax on dispensary profits from selling marijuana
    Which is it? Sales tax or tax on profits. And is that a quote or what?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Democrats won't let states decide their own drug policy, because that would bring states' rights into play - and, as we have all been told, states' rights = raaaaacism.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    ^^THIS^^

    Team BLUE supporters are in a conundrum for this exact reason. They can't support states rights on this issue too vocally because then they would have to admit that such a concept is not the product of the racist white devil.

  • asdf||

    because republicans have just been SOOOO consistent and honest in their application of "states' rights" to drugs.

  • Alan Kellogg||

    The drug cartels win yet again.

  • LarryA||

    Most of what President Obama has done can be explained by a masochistic desire to piss off every constituency that voted for him.

  • ||

    Why is it masochistic?

    Say you piss off the gay rights people. What are they going to do: vote for Republicans who want to pass a Marriage Amendment to the Constitution and were perfectly happy to let states criminalize sodomy?

    This is how you run to the center.

  • Jimmy Sinner||

    Well, I know of no Wallgreens or CVS that is a non-profit. Plus they're slinging extremely dangerous pills.

    "What message are they giving our kids by doing this. God forbid I have to tell them anything about drugs, alcohol, tobacco or sex. I thought the media sources would take care of all that.

    I mean, they are seeing able bodied people going into drug stores and walking out with a bag of drugs? That is just giving them the wrong message...

    Drugstores can be next to schools, playgrounds and parks!? Truthfully, I don't think I like the idea of having them in plain sight of my children. I mean, with all of the profit and clearly no intention of helping sick people. With their thirst for profits and all."

    I understand that patients probably are cash-strapped due to their illness. But high quality medical marijuana doesn't grow it self. Most states laws say that you can be (compensated) for the service or product.

    Take a look in any magazine ad for prescription meds. ANYONE of them. They usually list side effects similar to:
    •allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
    •changes in vision
    •fast, irregular heartbeat
    •feeling faint or lightheaded, falls
    •fever
    •problems with balance, talking, walking
    •ringing in ears
    •suicidal thoughts or other mood changes
    •trouble passing urine or change in the amount of urine
    •unusual bleeding or bruising
    •unusually weak or tired
    •constipation
    •headache
    •nausea, vomiting
    •strange dreams
    •stomach gas
    •trouble sleeping

    Wow! Sign me up, Doc! I would love to try and feel better about my symptoms if it only entails having two dozen side effects. I sure am glad my doctor busted out the dry erase board and made sure the bennefits outweighed the risks!

    Then you will have to pay for this shite. I would love for someone to profit from my prescribed suicidal thoughts.

    Thanks America! For being the most hypocritical country in the world. Where everything has to be a WAR on something.

    Obama is junk. I truly hope everyone votes for Ron Paul.

    Take Care Everyone!

  • ||

    Odd that the feds seem to think they have a prayer of shutting down our #1 agricultural crop-- just as the Gallup poll broke 50% pro. Earth to the DEAthugs: Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement