As Nick Gillespie noted earlier this morning, California authorities seem intent on cracking down on the state's pot dispensaries. What does that mean? Well, for starters, if you're the owner of an L.A.-area pot dispensary, those goofy-looking guys hanging around outside your door may not just be having fun:
Clay Tepel knew there were risks to setting up a medical marijuana shop: it could lose money, be robbed or be raided by authorities.
Still, he wasn't expecting the phone call one August day when a voice said the police were outside and he needed to open up or they would bust down the door. His first thought that it was a joke turned to terror when he opened the door.
Heavily armed officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and, oddly enough, Bermuda shorts stormed his store, handcuffed him, disabled security cameras and seized his drugs before taking him to jail.
News of Tepel's bust came in the wake of a statement last week by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley that he wants to shut down pot clinics that sell pot for profit. Cooley's currently investigating "several hundred" area dispensaries, according to the AP. But he's got an easy way to avoid a visit from his fashionable enforcers:
Cooley said he would target stores who are profiting and selling to people who don't qualify for medicinal marijuana.
"All those who are operating illegally, our advice to them is to shut down voluntarily and they won't be subject to prosecution," Cooley told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Good deal? I'm not so sure. It reminds me of the bargain The Humungus offered the citizens of the gasoline-rich encampment in Mad Max 2. First he and his goons surrounded their settlement; then they harassed the residents for a while (killing at least a couple, if I recall correctly); then The Humungus offered them a generous choice: "Just walk away." If they did, he'd let them keep their lives. (Watch the Lord Humungus' complete speech here.)
But in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, are you really going to just walk away from your only supply of energy, the most plentiful supply you're ever likely to see in your life? And in the middle of Los Angeles, are you really going to just walk away from the pot dispensary that you worked so hard to open?
Still, per Nick's post, there was some good news on the medical marijuana front today:
Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.
The policy is aimed at federal agents, so it won't affect Cooley's investigations. And, as Nick said, "The devil is in the details… and how the policy is enforced." And it looks to me like it still leaves significant leeway for federal drug enforcers to make choices about what they'll pursue:
The memo, the officials said, emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.
In other words, owners of pot dispensaries shouldn't necessarily expect a break; if authorities decide to target dispensaries, then these new guidelines won't provide any cover.
But by suggesting, however tacitly, that maybe drug cops might have better things to do than raid medical marijuana clinics, it looks to me like a teensy, tiny, step toward a saner drug policy.