Evergreen Holistic Collective, in Lake Forest, was enjoined by an Orange County Trial Judge from operating within city limits back in 2010, because city policy did not allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits, deeming them nuisances. Evergreen appealed. Late last week, a three-judge panel of California’s Fourth District Appellate Court became the first appellate court in California to strike down the a city’s total ban on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits.
Of course, this only adds to the growing legal confusion about California’s medical marijuana laws, which, among other things, dramatically conflict with Federal law, which still regards marijuana as a dangerous Schedule One drug, having no medical purpose or efficacy, right up there with heroin. Consider this: the Second District Court of Appeal last year invalidated the city of Long Beach’s requirement that Pot Shops be licensed, but, another panel of the Fourth District upheld the City of Riverside’s moves to close and prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries within their city limits. This issue seems now destined to be decided by the California Supreme Court.
The ‘kicker’ to last week’s ruling by a different panel of the Fourth District, sitting in Santa Ana, has lawyers who handle cases arising under California’s thorny, and sometimes unpredictable, medical marijuana laws, collectively scratching their heads. The Court held that, while a city cannot ban Pot Shops outright, the state legislation “requires that any collective or cooperative activity involving quantities of marijuana exceeding a patient’s personal medical need must be tied to the cultivation site,” In regular-person-speak: this Court feels that medical marijuana collectives may only dispense marijuana to those qualified to buy and use it for a whole catalog of medical ills, from the location where the marijuana is grown. According to this panel of Justices, Pot Shops cannot buy marijuana grown elsewhere and then proceed to sell it at their own dispensaries – they must grow it where they sell it!
Pro-medical marijuana advocates are already filling cyberspace with comments like – but liquor stores don’t have to distill their liquor in a moonshiner’s still behind their liquor stores!
Federal law enforcement authorities, pitting the US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause against what the people of California voted as our state law, are now squarely opposed to California’s medical marijuana law, and those of some dozen other states as well. In fact, earlier last week the Los Angeles US Attorneys’ Office sent some 50 letters to medical marijuana dispensaries located in three cities in San Bernardino County, threatening that, if they did not close their doors permanently, criminal charges and monetary fines would follow.
Last October, after their earlier, ‘live and let live’ position adopted after President Obama was elected and announced in early 2009 in a letter from Attorney General Holder to US Attorneys around the country, the Feds did a surprising about-face. In about October of 2010, federal law enforcement authorities began a California-wide effort to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries, telling some 140 Pot Shops in more than 20 Southern California cities, to either shutter their operations or face criminal consequences.
We have quite the anomaly here. In a time of upside-down budgets, the state of California can benefit greatly from taxing what is now this state’s largest cash crop.
In dollar figures compiled by DrugScience.org for the 2003-5 period, in fact, Marijuana is, far and away, the largest crop in the entire nation: Marijuana came in Number One, at $35,803,591, Corn was Number Two, at $23,299,601, and Soybeans were Number Three, at $17,312,200.
After decades in which scientific study was not possible in the U.S., the last decade or so has brought a flood of scientific information showing repeatedly that Marijuana indeed does have real, quantifiable medical uses. This, despite the most recent pronouncements of the US Supreme Court, the majority of Justices of which must have missed reading about any of the many scientific studies before putting pen to paper, or fingers to computer keyboard.
According to leading advocate group NORML over 60 US and International health organizations now support allowing patients to have immediate legal access to medical marijuana under a physician’s supervision.
Inviting widespread disrespect for the law is never a particularly good idea. Telling fables to the public is not to be endorsed either. Foregoing millions in tax revenues in a era when our state government is literally starving for revenues – that is just plain dumb. Adding insult to injury, the hundreds of thousands who are arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession each year, cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions in state and local law enforcement dollars, to pay police, court system employees, prison employees and others up and down the law enforcement food chain, diverting their attention and resources away from real, violent criminals and from protecting us from actual threats to our safety. And, when you consider the deaths, illnesses and law enforcement costs of alcohol and tobacco, both absolutely legal in most of America including California, and the billions that we have spent since the 60’s, chasing people who may have or use marijuana, one must ask: Why does this Witch Hunt go on, and on ?!?
California’s medical marijuana statutes are far from being a model of clarity – they leave big holes in the intended delivery system for municipalities and counties to try to fill, and much of the ambiguity of the laws was intended back in the mid-90’s and early 2000’s, for various political reasons. But, here in 2012, in the fourth year of the Great Recession, it is now time for either outright legalization of marijuana use by adults, or some simple and straightforward rules about who can sell it, and where, already, and for the Federal government to re-direct their efforts and our tax dollars, to chasing after people who really do pose harm to our society.