Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Critical Superior Court Ruling Goes Under The Radar

I just came across an article in the Los Angeles Times that was overshadowed by the media coverage of Obama's new statement on Medical Marijuana. On the same day as the written statement from the President, a California Superior Judge ruled that the city of Los Angeles' ban on new medical cannabis dispensaries is invalid. By ruling that one new dispensary does not need to follow the ban, the city recognized that this would make future efforts to enforce the ban nearly impossible. Los Angeles District Steve Cooley did not retreat from his position that most of the clubs in the LA area were still in violation of state law by taking in a profit.

The Los Angeles DA is still not able to see how these shops might help generate revenue for the state, or that the people of his city are in favor of them. He reportedly responded to the ruling by stating that,
A collaboration of numerous agencies, including federal, state and local police agencies, county and city prosecutors, will combat the proliferation of illegal medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles City and County,
This is the same Steve Cooley who recently announced that nearly 100% of the collectives in Los Angeles are operating illegally because of an interpretive loophole he found in the Compassionate Use Act that was passed by voters 13 years ago.

How can the state government let someone who is clearly against the medical program determine the legal status of all of the coopratives in one of the most populated, and medicated, districts?

Hopefully the continued opposition and illegitimate allegations by public officials and law enforcement will not be seen by federal agents as a way to continue assisting raids on the medical industry. While the court ruling may help the current situation, it still seems as if the few remaining opponents to medical marijuana will not be persuaded by arguments, or follow the guidelines set forth by those who support cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Political Inaction?

Recently, there has been a plethora of media coverage on the marijuana debate, and particularly President Obama's written statement to the DEA outlining the new federal position on states that allow medical marijuana. In the memo, President Obama tells U.S. Attorneys that they should avoid prosecuting people that use or distribute medical cannabis as long as they are in accordance with state laws. While this sounds like a major victory for the medical community, in reality this does not change much.
The "new" policy that has been written out by Obama is really just a reiteration of what federal policy has been ever sense he arrived in office. Obama has been interviewed on the subject many times previous to this written statement, and in all of these discussions he has stated that he does not want to waste federal resources trying to circumvent state laws on the issue. While the policy sounds good, unfortunately the DEA has felt it not necessary to follow. Sense Obama has taken office, there have been at least 22 raids on medical dispensaries in California that have been organized by, or assisted by, federal agents. One of the clubs raided by the DEA in San Francisco was shut down because of what the DEA called "irregularities in the collection of state sales tax." This has nothing to do with violations of state drug laws. When was the last time a bank or pharmacy was raided by federal agents at gun point for irregularities in their state tax forms? Maybe this is why the President now feels it necessary to provide the policy to federal law enforcement in writing.
Unfortunately even this written statement holds little weight with the DEA, particularly in California. Because of the language of the policy, federal agents can still raid medical dispensaries that they feel are out of accordance with state laws. Where this becomes a problem is when officials with opposing views on the subject interpret state laws differently for different districts. This visibly true in the Los Angeles area and San Diego.
The DA of San Diego has been against the medical movement from the get go and continues to shut down San Diego dispensaries with the help of the DEA. In addition, the District Attorney of Los Angeles Steve Cooley has recently published an opinion that, in his mind, renders 99% of the over 800 dispensaries in the LA area illegal because they all use over the counter sales. This would leave legal room for the DEA to assist in raiding all of these Los Angeles clubs because the DA of that area deems them illegal by state law. However, this legal interpretation that Steve Cooley has made public, does not follow the guidelines that California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued in March that clearly state that collectives can charge for cannabis sativa as long as they only take in enough revenue to cover overhead and operating expenses.
All of this media hype and mixed messages from officials are leaving the actual picture of the cannabis sativa debate very divided for those involved, and even more clouded and unsure for the people observing. A clearer picture needs to be drawn about the legal stature and enforcement of cannabis for both the people onlooking the debate and the people debating if any sort of workable solution is going to be formed for the either the legalization or medical use of marijuana.

Until next time,
The Cann Ban Man

Monday, October 19, 2009

NORML Agrees That Law Enforcement is Final Opposition

For many years, most people who have been in favor of, and somewhat in tune with, the discussion about medical and legal cannabis have wondered why it remains a debate. Some people are simply shocked that medical use even remains a discussion, and that normal use remains illegal. Because of the majority support of the citizens, and the obvious state revenue cannabis would generate, prohibition now just seems illogical in many minds.

Many of these concerned people have come to the conclusion that pharmaceutical companies, along with big tobacco and the alcohol companies, are behind the hold up. Some feel that these companies are brutally lobbying for, conspiring for, and financially supporting marijuana's current legal standing. Marijuana is either a perfect or close substitute for all three of these goods. While this may be the case, the active opposition, and the is probably the most true of the pharmaceutical companies. (Especially when there are rumors that Marlboro has already developed the packaging and marketing strategy for Marlboro Greens, just in case legalization goes through...) However the true opposition could be much more in the public eye than that.

NORML has recently concluded that,
Law enforcement organizations — including cops, district attorneys, prosecutors, prison guard unions, sheriffs, and narcotics officers associations — remain the primary force working against sensible marijuana law reform.
As evidence, they cite the Los Angeles Time's report on the DA's plan to prosecute nearly 100% of the dispensaries running in Los Angeles for non-compliance with state laws. The DA is claiming that any dispensary that has over-the counter-sales is operating illegally. This statement was not based of off any state court or government decision, and it remains the sole opinion of the Los Angeles DA. This cannot simply be one man's hatred and mistrust for marijuana, and seems like a big move to generate funds for the city's law enforcement. The people of LA have caused uproars about this decision, however the DA shows little acceptance or sympathy for the public's beliefs.

Another shocking piece of evidence in favor of law enforcement's vendetta against legal cannabis is the California Narcotics Officers Association's paper entitled “California Police Chiefs Association Position Paper on the Decriminalization of Marijuana.” In this paper the officers association spits out un-backed claims about the cost of legalizing marijuana and many of the evidence they use is entirely contradiction with what studies on the topic have shown. They claim marijuana addicts will turn to crime to fuel there addiction and it will increase the rate of other drug use. Studies on both of these arguments have shown the opposite effects. Usage tends to increase only minimally and many people begin to use marijuana instead of other drugs.

Probably the scariest part about both of these pieces of evidence is that the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, reported that DA Steve Cooley was recently a guest a a convention held by the same California Narcotics Officers Association. The topic of this conference was the ‘eradication of medical-marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County,’

Friday, October 9, 2009

Los Angeles DA Threatens Local Dispensories

On Saturday, the Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley stated that L.A. law enforcement is now of the opinion that almost all 900 dispensaries operating in Los Angeles are running illegally. According to a State Supreme Court Ruling, the 1996 medical law on the books legalizes the medical use and growth of cannabis. According to the DA, this does not legalize the over the counter sale of marijuana, which is currently how all dispensaries operate. Cooley stated to The Los Angeles Times that,
"The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally, according to our theory,"

His plan is to first warn the clubs of their illegality in order to give them a chance to comply with law enforcement's interpretation of the law. Unfortunately, it would be impossible for any club to maintain its business without over-the-counter sales, and the DA's ultimate goal is to shut down all of the collectives in LA county. This is the largest threat to the medical cannabis industry sense the Obama administration's announcement that federal raids would stop on all dispensaries that were in accordance with state law.

The most confusing part of all of this is the motivation behind the announcement. Why does law enforcement want to crack down on cannabis? Are there not more serious and victimizing crimes that they could redirect their cannabis efforts toward? Or is cannabis enforcement just the most profitable avenue for the department? Can Cooley really justify stripping California for 18 million a year in tax revenue by finding a loop hole in the legislation and demanding that "It's the law!" Finally, if LA law enforcement is taking tax money from the state government, and they are trying to effectively nullify legislation that was voted in by the state's people over ten years ago, who are they working for?!

This is a major development in the legalization debate and it could have dramatic effects on how the medical market operates. I will keep updates on the issue as more information develops.