Drug War

If Colorado's Licenses Can't Protect Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Why Would California's?

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Last week the California Assembly approved a bill introduced by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would create a state system for licensing and regulating medical marijuana growers and sellers. The Sacramento Bee says the supporters of the bill "argue that state oversight is critical to staving off federal raids on California's medical cannabis industry." That argument seems to make sense in light of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's promises of prosecutorial forbearance for medical marijuana suppliers who comply with state law. The idea is that explicitly authorizing dispensaries, which currently operate in a gray area under California law, will protect them from federal interference. The problem is that U.S. attorneys in states that allow medical use of marijuana have shown little inclination to implement the policy described by their boss.

"At the end of the day," a spokesman for André Birotte Jr., the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, declared last fall, "California law doesn't matter." Meanwhile, in Colorado, which already has taken the license-and-regulate route, U.S. Attorney John Walsh says all state-authorized dispensaries are fair game for raids, forfeiture, and prosecution. Although Walsh initially targeted dispensaries near schools (which are not necessarily violating state law), the Associated Press reported in March that his spokesman "said it's not possible to answer whether a shop in compliance with state rules and regulations and not located near a school would still face any trouble." If the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division can't shield dispensaries from the feds, is there any reason to think that creating a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within California's Department of Consumer Affairs, as Ammiano envisions, will provide more protection?

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  1. If the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division can’t shield dispensaries from the feds, is there any reason to think that creating a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within California’s Department of Consumer Affairs, as Ammiano envisions, will provide more protection?

    Yes there is a reason. Colorado is a swing state and California is not. Sorry California but if you mindlessly vote for one party, expect to be taken for granted by both.

    1. Speaking as a Californian: good point!

      Personally, I have come to love the “medical marijuana” crackdown.

      First of all, there are no bigger hypocrites than the medical marijuana operators. They utterly oppose legalization, so fuck them, they can all rot in federal prison.

      Second of all, I have always ascribed to a simple maxim: the best way to change a bad law is to enforce it. We are running head long toward catastrophe. Maybe after every citizen in the country has been convicted of some crime, and nobody is eligible to vote or get a job, then the laws will get some scrutiny.

      1. The medical marijuana people are scum for the exact reason you state. If I were ever king, they would be the last people ever to go to prison for selling marijuana. Fucking monopolist assholes.

        1. I agree. The prop 19 fight really opened my eyes to the confederation of opponents to legalization, the medical scammers are the biggest hypocrites of all.

        2. John, I’m not sure what it is like in CA, but in CO we don’t have 1 single monopoly – it is hundreds of small, mostly family-owned businesses workgin hard (very hard) to keep themselves in business and keep medical marijuana from becoming an idea of the past.

          We don’t have monopolies on marijuana in Colorado. We have about 800 individuals waking and working like ants to make the best bud for less.

          If you’re tired of CA – come to CO. It’s always high here.

          mmjbusinessacademy.com

      2. shamalam let’s not be so harsh.

        In Colorado we do believe that MMJ is real. Currently professors at UCCS Cannabis for the Cure are working to PROVE that patients are finding a possible cure for their skin cancers using very highly concentrated cannabinoids.

        I’ll add my 2 cents and see if a dime comes out.

        Having the MMED in Colorado at least gives small business owners growers a rule book to play by.

        1. Does creating an MMED?Bureau help provide protection?

        Nothing provides protection until it is legalized; however, it does provide some stability. If you want protection, sell condoms.

        The more stabile the market has=the greater the market can grow.

        More change=less stability=less investment/jobs.

        Stability and growth=investment, jobs, new technologies, etc.

        2. Does creating the MMED help the market?

        Time will tell; however, since the MMED was established, Colorado and specifically Colorado Springs has become the new “Silicon Valley” of medical marijuana industry development.

        I favor full legalization; yet today’s Supreme Court is not balanced to support it.

        It is my humble suggestions, that we let the States and small businesses work within the realm of medical marijuana and let the market develop, stabilize, and then approach legalization.

        The ban on new CO MMJ centers ends June 30th. Thinking about MMJ? Come to the Rockies. It offers the most stability of all 17 States in my opinion.

        mmjbusinessacademy.com

      3. “and nobody is eligible to vote…”

        “then the laws will get some scrutiny.”

        Well, now, uh, Lancelot, Galahad, and I, wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French by surprise – not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!

    2. Reread what you wrote. I think you have it backward.

      My thought, even before reading your comment, was that, yes, it might well be that a solidly Democratic state would be rewarded by a Democrat president that way.

  2. Shield? Didn’t CO’s licensing just provide a list of names and address to go bust?

    But I’m sure cali’s growers and salesmen will be to baked to consider that eventuality.

  3. The free and brave people who founded this country would have revolted against the federal government by now.
    Fortunately for the feds, the domesticated descendents of the wild people who colonized this land are a bunch of pussies.

  4. There’s a profound difference between CA and CO. California is in the bag for Obama; so Obama can afford to toss a bone to the drug warriors without paying a political penalty.

    Colorado, on the other hand, is in play. That means Obama has to step lightly on issues that will offend his supporters.

    So I’d say Colorado will get a pass on medical marijuana, at least until the election.

    1. Didn’t you read the article? State-licensed dispensaries already have not been getting that pass in Colo. But the Calif. legislator’s thinking may be — and may be correct — that the Democratic federal admin. will look more kindly on what is in effect being asked for by the legislature of a solidly Democrat state.

  5. CO is less of a swing state than some people might think. We’ve been trending more and more TEAM BLUE over time, and I’m personally not very sanguine on the prospects of Obama not carrying the state fairly easily.

    1. probably a result of californians moving to colorado so they can ruin it just like they’ve done to the rest of the west.

  6. I wonder if it would help to have state run dispensaries, like the liquor stores in Virginia or Pennsylvania.

    1. You mean the VA liquor stores that VA Gov. Bob McDonnell recently tried to privatize?

    2. For the kind of direct, eyeball-to-eyeball, fed/state confrontation we need, that would be the way to go.

      But can you imagine the dried up, seedy, stemmy, crap they would sell? Blecch.

    3. It definitely would help, for a very important legal reason: the (US) Controlled Substances Act says that officers enforcing a state or local law regarding a controlled substance may manufacture, possess, distribute, and/or dispense it in the process of such enforcement, without need for DEA registration. So if the state (or a municipal) gov’t has its cops be the dispensers, it’s not a violation of federal law.

      That solution for medical marijuana (supply by police) was proposed as far back as the late 1970s, and continued to be into the 1990s. Old state med mj laws like NY have a provision allowing the state health dept. to go to the police if the feds are not forthcoming in a timely manner with supplies of pot, but presumably the health commissioner of NY (and of other states with similar laws) has just been giving the feds a little more time to come around.

      1. This is not just theory. Police in Fla. (at least) have mfd. sold crack in sell-and-bust operations. Med mj can be couched as a sell-and-bust, where busts are made against those not authorized by the state law to possess pot.

        The reason for the exemption in the CSA should be obvious: It would be impossible, given the public access requirements of DEA registration data, for undercover drug operations to be carried out otherwise. If the feds attempt to shut down a state or municipal mmj police operation, they will as well be foreclosing all undercover narcotics operations, because no jurisdiction would risk the legal liability of its police being prosecuted for federal narcotics violations, nor would police be so ready to take such assignments.

  7. If anybody thinks the Obama administration promised forbearance, or a deescalation of enforcement of federal laws against medical marijuana outfits, then I suggest you read the “Holder memo” that supposedly set up the policy:

    http://blogs.justice.gov/main/archives/192

    This policy offers no hope and no change.

  8. A quote from the Holder memo:

    Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution where there is a reasonable basis to believe that compliance with state law is being invoked as a pretext for the production or distribution of marijuana for purposes not authorized by state law. Nor does this guidance preclude investigation or prosecution, even when there is clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law, in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.

    Because, fuck you, that’s why!

  9. Everyone knows you can trust Erik Holder

  10. The US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, so it’s not a case of the administration being stymied by them.

    I know Sullum knows this and I’m sure it’s just an oversight, but this post seems to excuse the BO administration and AG Holder.

  11. Jacob, thanks for the report. As an investor in Colorado, I’ll add my 2 cents and see if a dime comes out.

    Having the MMED in Colorado at least gives us, small business owners, investors, and growers a rule book to play by.

    1. Does creating an MMED or Bureau help provide protection?

    Nothing provides protection until it is legalized; however, it does provide some stability and predictability. If you want protection, sell condoms.

    The more stability a market has = the greater the chance the market can predictably grow.

    More change = less stability ? less investment and growth.

    Stability and growth = investment, jobs, new technologies, and so on.

    2. Does creating the MMED help the market?

    Time will tell; however, since the MMED was established, Colorado and specifically Colorado Springs has become the new “Silicon Valley” of medical marijuana industry development.

    I favor full legalization; yet today’s Supreme Court is not balanced to support legalization.

    It is my humble suggestions, that we let the States and small businesses work within the realm of medical marijuana and let the market develop, stabilize, and then approach full legalization.

    The ban on new medical marijuana centers ends June 30th. Thinking about MMJ? Come to the Rockies. It offer the most stability of all 17 States in my opinion.

    KC @ mmjbusinessacademy.com

  12. OK wow so who comes up with al lthat stuff??

    http://www.Anon-not.tk

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