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November 23, 2011

"Legal in California, Medical Marijuana Prompts Federal Crackdown"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article from the New York Times.  Here are excerpts:

An intensifying federal crackdown on growers and sellers of state-authorized medical marijuana has badly shaken the billion-dollar industry that has sprung up in California since voters approved medical use of the drug in 1996 and has highlighted the stark contradiction between federal and state policies....

Federal law classifies the possession and sale of marijuana as a serious crime and does not grant exceptions for medical use, so the programs adopted here, in 15 other states and in the District of Columbia exist in an odd legal limbo.  While federal agencies have long targeted Californians who blatantly reap illegal profits in the name of medicine, or who smuggle marijuana across state lines, the Justice Department said in 2009 that it would not normally pursue groups providing marijuana to sick patients, in accordance with state laws.

But in the last several weeks, federal prosecutors have raided or threatened to seize the property of scores of growers and dispensaries in California that, in some cases, are regarded by local officials as law-abiding models.  At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service has levied large, disputed tax charges against the state’s largest dispensary, threatening its ability to continue....

The growing federal pressure industry leaders say, could force the dismantling of some of the cooperatives that provide marijuana to more than 750,000 Californians who have obtained doctor “recommendations” to treat everything from cancer-related nausea to pain and anxiety.  Within a few years, hundreds of collectives, large and small, have deeply embedded themselves in the state, paying more than $100 million in sales taxes, joining local chambers of commerce and better business bureaus, even appearing on “adopt-a-highway” signs.

Here in Mendocino County, which gladly cooperates with federal agents against the rampant criminal cultivation of marijuana, officials devised a permit and monthly monitoring system for small-scale growers supplying patient groups.  The sheriff said this has eased his burdens and prevented diversion to the black market, and he praised the Northstone Organics Collective, run by Matthew Cohen, for scrupulous adherence to the rules.

But at 6 a.m. on Oct. 13, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents with assault rifles and chainsaws raided Mr. Cohen’s property in the oak-covered hills north of Ukiah, cutting down the hefty 99 plants (6 to 12 feet tall) that were meant to provide marijuana for 1,700 members.  “The federal and state laws exist in parallel universes,” said Thomas D. Allman, the Mendocino County sheriff, in his office in Ukiah.  He is as tough as anyone on the illegal pot trade, he said, but “growing and using medical marijuana is a right of a California citizen.”...

Medical marijuana advocates accuse the Obama administration of going back on earlier promises not to go after groups abiding by local laws.  But federal justice officials say the real change is the proliferation of large, commercial enterprises, not their guidelines.

“A lot of the medical marijuana stores that claim to be nonprofit are making lots of money,” Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, said in an interview.  He added that prosecutors were skeptical about the medical needs of many buyers.  “We’ve found in California that anybody can get a medical recommendation,” he said.

Since late September, in their broadest crackdown yet, federal prosecutors have sent letters to more than 100 registered dispensaries or their landlords throughout the state, warning that their property may be confiscated and that they could face prison if they do not shut down....

Even many marijuana advocates agree that state laws governing medical marijuana are inadequate, largely leaving it to local officials to set rules for growing and selling that vary wildly by county.  It is also an open secret that a share of physician-approved buyers do not have plausible medical needs.  On Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach, for example, touts compete to lure people into shabby clinics with names like “Medical Kush Doctor,” promising medical recommendations for $45....

Even if the state tightens controls and pares back the industry, the central clash, between the federal war on drugs and California’s desire to offer medical marijuana, will remain. Ms. Harris, the attorney general, said she hoped that if the state improved oversight, federal officials would find other priorities. “I’m a career prosecutor,” she said, “and I know that everyone has a lot of obligations and limited resources.”

November 23, 2011 at 05:43 PM | Permalink

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Comments

the feebs might better watch out. instad of them dismantling the LEGAL sytem in calif and other states...THEY might decisde to DISMANTLE the feebs in their territory!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 23, 2011 5:59:46 PM

Student/ I am having a hard time finding out how to get information on how to get the laws in regards to marijuana / smoke / public being exposed to the smoke

Posted by: Robinson | Nov 28, 2011 1:34:24 PM

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