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.