Drug War

Can Licenses Protect Medical Marijuana Businesses? (Part II)


Last week I asked whether it is reasonable to expect that establishing a state system for licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in California will protect them from federal interference. I noted that federal prosecutors have shown little inclinatiion to respect state policy in this area, despite Attorney General Eric Holder's assurances (reiterated in congressional testimony on Thursday) that the Justice Department does not plan to target growers and distributors who comply with state law. In response to my post, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project argues that, while U.S. attorneys may huff and puff that state law does not matter, the record of actual raids (as opposed to threats) suggests it does:

The key point is that in the three states that have issued state licenses for [medical marijuana] dispensaries [Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico], there have been literally zero federal raids [on licensed operations]….

In the states where there are no state licenses for [medical marijuana] businesses [California, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington], there have been federal raids.  And I'd bet money that there will be more federal raids in most of these five states….

Having a state license has, so far, protected [medical marijuana] businesses from being raided by the feds.  At a minimum, this is an important fact to note, even if one wants to be skeptical that this "line of demarkation" between state licenses and no state licenses will continue into the future.

In fact, this "line of demarkation" is so persuasive that it's actually allowed us to move forward with the licensing process of [medical marijuana] dispensaries in [Arizona, the District of Columbia, Vermont, and Rhode Island].  These four developments are a big deal.

In any case, when one wants to talk about [Colorado], it's important to note that there are no federal raids.  Rather, it's an instance of a federal official interfering with local zoning, whereby the fed is actually just saying, "I'm not raiding you, and I'm not even shutting you down.  I just need you to move a few yards."  The folks in [California] would love this kind of treatment by a fed!

I hope Kampia is right. But John Walsh, the U.S. attorney in Colorado, did threaten state-authorized dispensaries and their landlords with forfeiture and prosecution, citing their violation of federal law. Contrary to Holder's claim that "we limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals [and] organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law," Walsh did not argue that the dispensaries were violating state rules. What would have happened if the dispensaries had ignored Walsh's letters?

NEXT: Kerfuffle over Gay Parenting Study Raises Important Question: Aren't These Studies Bloody Stupid?

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  1. Can Licenses Protect Medical Marijuana Businesses?


    1. If licenses keep the Feds out that may be the way to go. But this allows a lot of room for state corruption, cronyism, and will lead to higher prices than otherwise. Do liquor stores have to be licensed in most states?

      1. absolutely they do, any business that sells liquor needs a liquor license, just like if you sell cigarettes you need a tobacco license.

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    1. Parlez-vous vache?

  3. OT:What’s with the late night French spam for tennis shoes?

  4. I’d love to see the Feds raid in Arizona, since they’re just loony enough to call in the National Guard to protect their licenses. And then it’s popcorn time.

    But they won’t. DC raids are a guarantee though.

    1. “I’d love to see the Feds raid in Arizona, since they’re just loony enough to call in the National Guard to protect their licenses. And then it’s popcorn time.”

      The National Guard is de facto federal. Short of insurrectionist commanding officers, there’s nothing they’d do against a federal incursion.

      But if we’re discussing what we’d love to see, my pick would be this: a federal raid occurs in Texas in some extremely unfortunate reason for the feds, and an enormous, universally armed mob confronts them. Shitstorm ensues. The feds are dragged to a local jail by local cops, and the Governor of Texas tells Husseinus Obamus Barackus Imperator Americanus to drop dead on national TV.

      /Pipe dream?

      1. *region, not reason.

        1. They’re defacto federal, but until they’re placed under Title 10, they’ll still act at the behest of the Governor against all enemies foreign and domestic(!). So it would be extremely short-lived (which is the only reason why it could (shut up, I know it couldn’t) happen, since they would immediately be called to federal duty, the Governor wouldn’t actually have to worry about anything happening – but he would get a good publicity boost for sticking a finger in the fed’s eye).

          And yes, of course it’s a pipe dream, but that’s all we got is fantasy.

          1. Imagine waking up tomorrow, turning on the morning news, and seeing a report titled, “Texas NG refuses to submit to federal command/detains federal officials”. That would be a nice, smile-inducing headline.

  5. Oh god I just got a semi.

    Thinking of Obama trying to emote his way through the initial stages of Texas secession.

    1. Err that was supposed to be a reply.

      1. Imagine being Obama, being woken up by frantic military officials and aides, turning on the TV, and seeing the Governor of Texas delivering a speech, with a title card underneath him reading, “Articles of Rebellion ratified,” with some juicy subtitles floating around beneath, like “Legislature declares, “Entry of armed federal agents into Texan territory will constitute an act of war,” and “Militias formed to defend against federal incursion”.

        What would a limpdick incompetent like Obama do?

        1. Beer summit.

          Or a lengthy re-assessment of his drone strike kill list. But then that would compound his frustration (deliciously!) when they came back and said the drones were ineffective.

          This is the best head movie ever.

          1. In that scenario, do you think he’d try to send the federal military to quell the insurrection? Would the federal military obey such orders?

            1. He’d be advised not to, and no I don’t think so. Or a huge portion of them wouldn’t. Basically the AF wouldn’t, which makes the rest of the forces irrelevant.

              And no, I don’t think he would anyway. But I could be wrong, because you know who lives in Texas.

        2. Drone bombing. Since they can’t fight back, it’s not an act of war that way, see?

  6. When Holder talks about “complying with state law,” he is playing word games with us, as he has done since the “Ogden Memo” was issued way back in 2009. While Holder talks about “complying with state law,” which sounds good, he has crafted his own definition of what that phrase means — and curiously enough, the definition does NOT include ascertaining what the state’s law requires, and asking if the user/provider is complying with it.

    This in microcosm is emblematic of the entire Obama approach to government – the belief that he and his administration can get away with whatever they want, and blatantly contradict themselves, through pure glibness.

    1. When Holder talks about “complying with state law,” he is playing word games withlying to us

  7. What I’ve never understood is in general don’t state’s laws supersede federal laws? Isn’t that how the constitution was written? (not like the fed cares, but still)

  8. Holder, Obama et al, use the states rights platform to suit their own Federal control agendas. Gun control(CA, AZ, NM, TX),Illegal Immigration (AZ), Gay Marriage(all US), Voter Registration(FL), Medical Cannabis(CA),Energy(all US), Abortion Rights(all US)are just a few that come to mind.
    Their motives are purely political and they have no intention of allowing the states (the people) to decide for themselves what they want or don’t want.

  9. If Obama sends Attorney General Holder to Colodaro to oppose Amendment 64, he’s really risking losing the swing state in the 2012 election.


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