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Posted by on Oct 19, 2009 in Health, Politics, Society | 9 comments

Marijuana Policy Shift & Its Consequences


This morning AP reported that the Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws. The NYTimes points to the three-page memo spelling out the policy, but I’m thinking Reason’s Jacob Sullum still believes there’s good reason for legit distributors to worry:

[T]he Drug Enforcement Administration can still participate in raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that local officials consider illegal. In Los Angeles County, as Brian Doherty noted a couple of weeks ago, that category includes pretty much every dispensary, since District Attorney Steve Cooley takes the position that state law does not permit over-the-counter sales. Officials in other jurisdictions hostile to medical marijuana, such as San Diego, can be expected to agree with that interpretation, even though it contradicts Attorney General Jerry Brown’s reading of the law. In recent months, the DEA has joined raids initiated by law enforcement officials in L.A. and San Diego. Until the law is clarified by the courts or the legislature, the federal government will have plenty of opportunities to interfere with the distribution of medical marijuana in California, even when it is going to bona fide patients.

Talk Left’s Jeralyn expects no boom in the medical dispensary business:

Given the increased willingness of the feds to allow dispensaries to operate if they are in compliance with state laws, it’s only natural that large numbers of people are going to be curious and want to learn more about opening a dispensary to see if it’s right for them. While the media and some law enforcement officials are trumping this into a near-explosion in the number of dispensaries opening in Colorado and elsewhere, I really don’t think 7 or 10 new dispensaries in any given area qualifies as an explosion, or as our Mr. Suthers said, “an opening of the floodgates. ”

It takes as much time and commitment to open and maintain a medical marijuana business as any other kind of business. I think the market for dispensaries will sort itself out without the need for moratoriums on granting licenses or new rules and regulations, particularly ones not authorized by voters or included in the authorizing legislation.

And to those of you tempted to joke about the policy shift, Andrew Sullivan asks that we all please get past the stoner humor:

Look, no one enjoyed Pineapple Express as much as I did, but this is a serious issue. It’s about Obama’s conservative restoration of federalism; and it’s about finding ways to help sick people manage their illness and pain in the most effective way possible. Boomers remember their college years and that’s the prism through which they see this. But it’s about basic freedoms, states’ rights, and humane treatment of the ill. What’s so hilarious about that?

He suggests that L.A.’s problem is that it liberalized too quickly and too irresponsibly.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

My friends at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) note another reason for celebration today, pointing to a Gallup poll finding U.S. support for legalizing marijuana at an all time high.