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Obamaryjane
October 19, 2009 8:43 AM   Subscribe

MEMORANDUM FOR SELECTED UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS: As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. (SLUSDOJM)
posted by gerryblog (94 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, just because.

Metafilter: unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.
posted by gerryblog at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obama, more of a states rights guy than Bush!
posted by xmutex at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2009 [36 favorites]


I approve of this.
posted by jquinby at 8:46 AM on October 19, 2009


Have you ever really looked at your President?

Say, wait a minute. Part of the objection to medical marijuana has been (AIUI) pushback from Big Pharma who don't want something cheap (even DIY) and effective available. I wonder if this represents some backroom deal concession from the medical industry on health insurance reform.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


A tiny step toward reason.
posted by rokusan at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2009


this is going to be counterproductive. All the democrats in california will be too high to vote in 2012
posted by empath at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


But how else are we going to ensure that grandma spends her last days in court fighting a possession charge for marijuana she was using to alleviate chronic pain and suffering associated terminal cancer?!
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good.

Now if he can expand his vocabulary a bit, we may really have something.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:49 AM on October 19, 2009


And sanity slowly makes its return to a long neglected DOJ.
posted by JeffK at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2009


I smoke medicine in the morning.
I smoke medicine at night.
I smoke medicine in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright.
posted by ryoshu at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine here in Berlin got busted smoking a joint on the street a while ago. Because this is Germany, he was treated decently by the officer who took down his personal information, and a few weeks later got a letter from the state prosecutor saying something like "the case is being dismissed for lack of public interest". In other words: we have better things to do with public time and money then bring some impoverished grad student into the courtroom for smoking a joint on the sidewalk. I don't mind grass remaining illegal so long as the local law enforcement exercises some common sense about their priorities.
posted by creasy boy at 8:52 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let it be known that in this day, the nineteenth of october, in the year two thousand and nine, that Joe Beese approved of an Obama administration policy.
posted by empath at 8:52 AM on October 19, 2009 [21 favorites]


empath: "Let it be known that in this day, the nineteenth of october, in the year two thousand and nine, that Joe Beese approved of an Obama administration policy."

Well, I was going to carp about the " Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug..." nonsense. But you've got to crawl before you can walk, etc.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:54 AM on October 19, 2009


Confused Canadian here. State judges need to be told NOT to prosecute people for something that is legal in their state? What am I missing?
posted by sandraregina at 9:04 AM on October 19, 2009


A state is like a province.
posted by electroboy at 9:06 AM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Confused Canadian- The memo was directed at federal prosecutors, telling them not to enforce federal law (which is supreme to state law, usually) in certain circumstances. Those certain circumstances are guided by state law in this case (but are not dictated by it).
posted by aswego at 9:09 AM on October 19, 2009


State judgesFederal prosecutors need to be told NOT to prosecute people for something that is legal in theira state?
posted by DU at 9:09 AM on October 19, 2009


"Hello, is this the FBI?"

"Yes, what do you want?"

"I'm calling to report my neighbor Billy Bob Smith! He is hiding marijuana inside his firewood."

"Thank you very much for the call, sir."

The next day, the FBI agents descend on Billy Bob's house. They search the shed where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they bust open every piece of wood, but find no marijuana. They swore at Billy Bob and left.

The phone rings at Billy Bob's house. Hey, Billy Bob! Did the FBI come?"

"Yeah!"

"Did they chop your firewood?"

"Yep."

"Happy Birthday, Buddy!"
posted by netbros at 9:10 AM on October 19, 2009 [55 favorites]


Can't wait for the Fox/Beck/Limbaugh/Hannity spin on this one. Boy howdy.

Confused Canadian here....
Basically, the thing is saying that FEDERAL officials should not devote their resources to prosecuting individuals who are in-compliance with STATE marijuana laws. Up until now, for example, the feds were still going after medical marijuana groups in California, even though such use is legal in that state. This says "Don't do that."
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on October 19, 2009


I mind that marijuana is still illegal because it results in it being more expensive for me to buy and necessitating that I at some level support the revenue of a major criminal enterprise for whom this otherwise harmless plant is a major cash crop.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:11 AM on October 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


sandraregina: "State judges need to be told NOT to prosecute people for something that is legal in their state? What am I missing?"

This was a letter to the U.S. Attorneys in various states, not to State judges. United States Attorneys are tasked with enforcing Federal law in their state. They decide whether or not to bring Federal charges against someone.

So this was basically Obama telling the U.S. Attorneys that they shouldn't feel compelled to go around wasting money and creating bad PR enforcing Federal drug laws (which are stupid) if it's for something that's allowed by State law.

It's bothersome to many people (myself included) that U.S. Attorneys could do this in the first place (it seems like a clear-cut states rights issue with no Federal interest), but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:15 AM on October 19, 2009


Even (at least one of the dudes at) National Review thinks this is a good idea.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:18 AM on October 19, 2009


Let's celebrate with some Obama-themed munchies.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:20 AM on October 19, 2009


This is great and all, but I'm gonna wait until dispensaries stop getting raided before I rejoice. That didn't happen when they took a stance on this a few months ago. How much weight do these recommendations have? I'm not clear on how the law works here, but I suspect Obama has zero authority to demand prosecutors and the DEA stop enforcing Federal law. There are armies of people whose entire career is built on the drug war and I'm dubious a sternly worded suggestion will deter them. Mind you, I appreciate the sentiment as it'd be easier for him to not take a stance on this at all, but talk is pretty cheap.
posted by cj_ at 9:23 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even (at least one of the dudes at) National Review thinks this is a good idea.

WFB was on record in support of legalization/decriminalization.
posted by jquinby at 9:24 AM on October 19, 2009


cj_, I haven't seen anyone else speculate about the possibility that the new guidelines wouldn't be followed, so maybe that's not a possibility.
posted by gerryblog at 9:26 AM on October 19, 2009


I don't mind grass remaining illegal so long as the local law enforcement exercises some common sense about their priorities.

I really, really dislike the idea that whether or not something should result in ruinous prosecution should involve the judgment of local law enforcement. Imagine if that individual was someone against whom the prosecutor had a grudge.

Legalize it, and stop wasting time and lives.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


Honestly, I think most cops pretty much everywhere would rather not worry about pot, because they've got so many more pressing problems.

Hopefully a bit of sense from the DOJ, like that in this memo, will give them something to justify their lack of enforcement of pot laws they'd rather not worry about, resulting in more police officers tackling bigger issues.

Hopefully.
posted by elder18 at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2009


How much weight do these recommendations have?

This question seems key to me. Does anyone know? And are local/state law enforcement now worse than federal?

LA's top prosecutor vows to target pot shops

Marijuana Outlets Get Burned by the Los Angles Police Department

Heavily armed officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and, oddly enough, Bermuda shorts stormed his store, handcuffed him, disabled security cameras and seized his drugs before taking him to jail. When he asked why his shop was invaded, an officer responded, "We're closing them all down."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 AM on October 19, 2009


Honestly, I think most cops pretty much everywhere would rather not worry about pot, because they've got so many more pressing problems.

I don't think this is remotely true, outside of, say, San Francisco.

Are not drug seizures still a major source of law-enforcement funding?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Canada, there's no distinction between provincial and federal criminal law--all criminal law is federal, administered by provincial justice departments. Thus, Sandraregina's (my hometown!) confusion.

In the U.S., there's state criminal law and federal criminal law, each with its own justice system. State criminal law in 11 states allows for medical marijuana possession and use; federal law doesn't. Thus, there was a conflict between state and federal justice systems in those 11 states that was effectively settled because the fed is the fed.

Interestingly, this makes Obama more of a states-rights president than Bush.
posted by fatbird at 9:33 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are not drug seizures still a major source of law-enforcement funding?

Interesting question, and one I'd like to follow up with: How big a slice of total law enforcement is drug enforcement?

Whether or not a 'suggestion' memo from on high ends up getting any traction would have a lot to do with the answer to that question, I think.
posted by Pragmatica at 9:35 AM on October 19, 2009


Well, I do think it's true. In Denver, for instance, pot is pretty much decriminalized. I've heard of several other cities taking the same measures.

If you're a small-town sheriff, would you rather tackle the meth lab down the road or some college kid smoking pot in his apartment? Would you rather have more cops solving murders or small drug busts?

Police departments are aware that murders and other crimes get much more press coverage than petty pot busts, and I'm pretty sure they'd like to have more resources to devote to crimes people actually care about.
posted by elder18 at 9:36 AM on October 19, 2009


If you're a small-town sheriff, would you rather tackle the meth lab down the road or some college kid smoking pot in his apartment?

That depends. Which one is likely to produce a higher value in goods and services you can steal confiscate?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:41 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


> If you're a small-town sheriff, would you rather tackle the meth lab down the road or some college kid smoking pot in his apartment? Would you rather have more cops solving murders or small drug busts?

I imagine cops prefer to tackle whatever is least dangerous and most lucrative. I can say this much: There's a speed trap every few miles here and no shortage of meth. Busting pot users is like a speed trap. On top of that, a lot of police are strangely hostile about pot thanks to culture war bullshit.
posted by cj_ at 9:44 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're a small-town sheriff, would you rather tackle the meth lab down the road or some college kid smoking pot in his apartment? Would you rather have more cops solving murders or small drug busts?

Actually, a lot of the Drug War is maintained by pot busts because cops like it that way. An arrest for smoking a blunt is a lot easier than busting up that meth lab, it allows police departments to show a lot of arrests and manhours spent, and it's a lot less dangerous.
posted by fatbird at 9:44 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is great and all, but I'm gonna wait until dispensaries stop getting raided before I rejoice.

If a dispensary is breaking the law, then yes, there's potential that it can get raided.

This memo says, in effect, that along as the dispensaries are complying with state law, then the feds will leave them alone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on October 19, 2009


Seems like a really smart political move. By taking a somewhat "state's rights" position, which should appeal to rational conservatives, he probably also makes a bunch of increasingly disappointed liberals very happy with him again. Without actually needing to do much.

Well played.
posted by freebird at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2009


freebird: " he probably also makes a bunch of increasingly disappointed liberals very happy with him again. Without actually needing to do much."

Well, if he signs a health care bill with an individual mandate but no public option, he better hope everyone is too stoned to notice.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:58 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I think most cops pretty much everywhere would rather not worry about pot, because they've got so many more pressing problems.

Not true at all. Local and state cops love marijuana busts because they can steal people's property, auction it, and use the proceeds for paramilitary gear, or in the case of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, build an enormous house.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:59 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this move seems like a no brainer politically (something like over 80% of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legal), although I guess he didn't have to do it, so it's still appreciated.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on October 19, 2009


I think the Beck/Limbaugh people might use the ol' "Commies tried to drug up America in the 60s to make us weak. Look... Obama is a commie and he is trying to get the populace stoned to make them more compliant. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!"
posted by symbioid at 10:08 AM on October 19, 2009


I think this might be a more open door than people realize. Isn't the logical extension of this statement that if a state chose to legalize, or at the very least vastly decriminalize, the feds would also leave that alone?

To me this reads a lot more like, "Your move, California."
posted by SinisterPurpose at 10:09 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well 80% of Americans are in favor of a public option health-plan and that probably isn't going to happen either. It's funny, actually: incredibly popular laws are actually less likely to become reality than unpopular, "roadkill" laws due to the way our political system is organized.

It seems like our political system punishes those politicians who say what everyone is thinking while rewarding those who maintain the status quo, no matter how egregious.
posted by Avenger at 10:10 AM on October 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


I live in West Hollywood, and the area is awash in new and very shady looking dispensaries. I've no doubt that many of them are operating illegally, and there's going to be some more busts before the whole thing can operate smoothly for the dispensaries that are following all the rules.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2009


A state is like a province.

That's some primo snark right there, folks.
posted by felix betachat at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I moved to Eugene, OR a couple months ago, and was blown away to learn that there seems to exist some sort of defacto decriminalization. Every Saturday, tons of people gather on the courthouse steps to smoke, buy, and sell marijuana (albeit at exorbitant rates). I can't imagine that the police aren't aware of this (it's hard to ignore someone rockin' a three foot bong in the public square), but I still haven't seen a single law enforcement officer even go near there.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:21 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really, really dislike the idea that whether or not something should result in ruinous prosecution should involve the judgment of local law enforcement. Imagine if that individual was someone against whom the prosecutor had a grudge.

"It is in principle most dangerous to have one set of rules on the books, but another set in use in practice . . . In the army, or in any fascist state, they have laws against almost everything, rules which are never enforced as long as you behave yourself. Then you make somebody mad, or the captain wakes up on the wrong side of the cot, and whammo. You just broke fifteen laws. Having laws on the books which are not enforced puts every policeman in the robes of a judge, empowered to decide who the guilty are today. In a free society, since the law cannot be arbitrarily or selectively enforced, a statue that is not enforced is not enforceable. What we have here is another situation from which no good can arise."
- Bill James, talking about catchers blocking the plate of all things.
posted by Copronymus at 10:30 AM on October 19, 2009 [23 favorites]


How big a slice of total law enforcement is drug enforcement?

One could argue that over the last two decades it has become the budget.
Those graphs keep climbing in wrong direction for 2008, but the DOJ hasn't made pretty last years stats yet. Nationally, for 2008 the DOJ is reporting 49.8% of the 1,702,537 total arrests for drug abuse violations were for marijuana -- a total of 847,863. Of those, 754,224 people were arrested for marijuana possession alone (for the sake of comparison, total violent crime arrests in 2008 was 594,911).
Here in MA last year, local law enforcement, DA's and a handful of cranky local activists were the only people coming out in numbers against question 2 which turned possession of under an ounce into a civil offense. Maybe it's just the antiauthoritarian in me, but I find it rather creepy when various arms of the judicial branch start lobbying for/against laws as opposed to simply enforcing/upholding them. Seems like a conflict of interest considering how much of their funding relies on drugs staying prohibited.
posted by paxton at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


...should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana

Keep reading people.

...prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. To be sure, claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws, and federal law enforcement should not be deterred by such assertions when otherwise pursuing the Department’s core enforcement priorities.

So if I bought somthing from a dispensary shop in CA, I would be protected, but the dispensaries, and their suppliers would still be open to federal charges at the discretion of the prosecutor.
posted by anti social order at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to everyone who explained the distinction between the state and federal criminal prosecution. It was actually very helpful. Because as fatbird pointed out, criminal prosecution is different up here in the cold white north, hence my confusion. :)
posted by sandraregina at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2009


Oh, one more point and I'll stop derailing - I've learned a lot about the difference between the Canadian and US electoral system by following threads on Metafilter, and now I'm starting on the legal system. Because I pretty much dismiss as fantasy any kind of legal-based t.v. show, and thus have not absorbed a thing.
posted by sandraregina at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2009


I read where Australians frequently demand their Miranda rights when arrested because US cop shows have led them into believing that that's a universal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in West Hollywood, and the area is awash in new and very shady looking dispensaries. I've no doubt that many of them are operating illegally

Wow. Shady looking (defined as, oh, I dunno, various peoples of color hanging about?) = no doubt that many are illegal. None? No doubt at all?

You'd make a great cop.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:51 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The for profit shops are getting closed,the patient run co-ops are left alone. The fact that money is made seems to inflame the passions of law enforcement.
posted by hortense at 11:07 AM on October 19, 2009


If we legalize pot, how the heck are we going to keep our prisons filled with young black men? Then the prisons will start runnin' on empty and then all those prison companies will come lookin' for a bail-out and you know who's going to have to pay 'em? That's right. China. With your grandchildren's money. Don't legalize pot on the backs of babies!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:08 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


But how else are we going to ensure that grandma spends her last days in court fighting a possession charge for marijuana she was using to alleviate chronic pain and suffering associated terminal cancer?!

That would have been a state thing anyway. Lots of states don't have medical marijuana laws.

Confused Canadian here. State judges need to be told NOT to prosecute people for something that is legal in their state? What am I missing?

State != fed. This is about prosecuting medical marijuana growers in federal courts, not people with small amounts of weed who would be prosecuted in state courts for possession.

If you're a small-town sheriff, would you rather tackle the meth lab down the road or some college kid smoking pot in his apartment? Would you rather have more cops solving murders or small drug busts?

Depends, which one is more likely get me shot and/or blow up? Cops love busting pot-heads because it's easy. People who think everyone is pro-pot are spending too much time hanging out on metafilter or with similar demographics. There is a lot of antipathy for pot smokers out there, especially among the police.

Imagining that everyone thinks like you is a big mistake, especially if you don't live in a very pot-friendly place (there are obviously lots of places that are more pot-friendly)
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on October 19, 2009


> It seems like our political system punishes those politicians who say what everyone is thinking while rewarding those who maintain the status quo, no matter how egregious.

What everyone is thinking= for some not yet finalized set of actors, a possible profit source

Status quo
= for some existing, entrenched, established, and presumably influential set of actors, a doing perfectly well already thank you very much profit source
posted by darth_tedious at 11:15 AM on October 19, 2009


Wow. Shady looking (defined as, oh, I dunno, various peoples of color hanging about?)

Imputing racist motivations to someone out of the fucking blue is a pretty shit move, fwiw. There are far better ways to approach a disagreement about the apparent legality-or-not of dispensaries than firing that sort of nuke and throwing in some grrr-cops bait as a coda.

If you've got any reason to suspect Bookhouse's motives are bad, you might want to explain why; if not, you might want to apologize instead for an exceedingly cheap shot.

West Hollywood is an interesting case, from what little I know about it—the city has on the books an explicit deprioritization of marijuana possession enforcement, which is a recipe for entreprenuer-friendly market, and entrepreneurs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes including the manifestly shady. I'm pretty flatly pro-legalization, but that doesn't mean I need to pretend that the same class of idiot that tries to buy primo spam real estate on Metafilter for $5 isn't likely to respond to a promising market in grey-area California weed sales with the same half-assed dimbulb entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
posted by cortex at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


I didn't say a fucking thing about race, mrgrimm, so please watch who you're calling a racist. And yes, I find it far more likely that fly-by-night places with goofy names, prize wheels and the like are far more likely to be violating the medicinal marijuana laws than the stellar, low-key dispensary closest to me. If none of the hundreds of new places are violating the laws, then I'm wrong. I'm not a cop, so it doesn't matter what I think of course. I'm just saying that not ever dispensary bust is the boot of big brother.

Jesus Christ.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


On preview, thank you Cortex. That got me a little angry.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2009


> grey-area California weed sales with the same half-assed dimbulb entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

I recently had a chance to talk to two such entrepreneurs at the local bar near me in Venice. They were bummed because they had just lost a few grand on the football game on the tv. When the conversation brought up the tax + legalization proposal that came up a few months, their response was fairly negative, because they thought it would cut into their profits (since apparently selling pot legally isn't as high margin as they were planning), while they couldn't actually articulate how it would do so (since it would be taxed on the grower IIRC, the legalization would open up the market place giving competition for suppliers, and suppliers could now afford to operate using things such as loans and have some security to their own investment) they were against it.

These guys didn't give a rats ass about legalization or helping the sick, from all accounts they got into the business as a way to make some money, and possibly because it was a more legitimate form of a business they may have been doing already. I can imagine that they don't have much of a problem toeing the line of the law to make a few extra bucks, which could result in them being busted.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought LA was cracking down in all of the dispensaries as of the past week or so. The shitty part is that I think it's to make up budget shortfalls, not because of any newfound civic interest in enforcing the law.
posted by Lord_Pall at 12:34 PM on October 19, 2009


zoomorphic : Local and state cops love marijuana busts because they can steal people's property, auction it, and use the proceeds for paramilitary gear...

I've long argued that this is One Of Those Things That Has To Stop. As long as a police department's budget is tied to making people criminals, they have a direct incentive to exploit their community (witness the excesses brought on by speeding tickets...) But at the same time, there certainly should be instances where a person committing a criminal act should be fined, so I've always advocated that any revenue generated by the police department should be evenly distributed among the local Fire Departments and public schools.

This way the money is still directly tied to making the town a better place, but not in a way that encourages the police to act as thugs.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


sandraregina: "Confused Canadian here."

In America, milk comes in waxed cardboard boxes.
posted by boo_radley at 1:25 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


This memo says, in effect, that along as the dispensaries are complying with state law, then the feds will leave them alone.

Well, that's nice that the Feds and the States are starting to get their wits about them, but what about the occasional local wackos? Obama's new position of Federal non-involvement with states that have medical marijuana laws is great, but just last week Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said he is of the opinion that ALL the dispensaries in the city are illegal and are subject to prosecution!

Or, as the Marijuana Policy Project's blog so eloquently put it, Los Angeles District Attorney Vows to Assist Drug Cartels and Local Rapists.

In other words, you all who are reading this thread right now may want to take a minute out of your busy web surfing and kick a few dollars towards the MPP to help them out. It's tax-deductible, too. Keep your eyes on the prize...
posted by Asparagirl at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2009


Similar article from yesterday's New York Times: Los Angeles Prepares for Clash Over Marijuana.

Key quote: " “About 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally,” said Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, who is up for re-election next year. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”

Mr. Cooley, speaking last week at a training luncheon for regional narcotics officers titled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County,” said that state law did not allow dispensaries to be for-profit enterprises."


I live in LA, in the Valley, within very short walking distance of at least four dispensaries and in five minutes' drive of perhaps fifteen dispensaries. They are inconspicuous, innocuous. Their windows are tinted so that no one can see their wares inside, and they all check doctors' prescriptions before even letting anyone step into the building. I've dealt with a few of them over the phone trying to get a friend's sick mother treatment options (story here). If and when those cops start raiding them, a lot of very sick people (many elderly) are going to have to turn to the underground to get their STATE ALLOWED AND DOCTOR APPROVED medicine.

Oh what a big brave man you are, Steve Cooley, taking on those dangerous chemo patients and those hale and hearty AIDS sufferers. How safe Los Angeles will be with them gone. Bravo, motherfucker.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:48 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


So if I bought somthing from a dispensary shop in CA, I would be protected, but the dispensaries, and their suppliers would still be open to federal charges at the discretion of the prosecutor.

The sense I got was that the Feds would only investigate under the following conditions:

Typically, when any of the following characteristics is present, the conduct will not be in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest:

* unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
* violence;
* sales to minors;
* financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
*ties to other criminal enterprises.


So basically, as long as they operate within state guidelines and they're not dealers masquerading as dispensaries, the Feds don't have any interest. Of course it would be nice if they'd formalize this, rather than make it something the next admin can reverse on a whim.
posted by electroboy at 2:03 PM on October 19, 2009


Asparagirl: I live within walking distance of some dispesaries as well. I absolutely agree with you that the cops raiding dispensaries would be a disaster for everyone involved and, frankly, would prefer straight legalization-and-taxation to what we have now. But it's a little misleading to say that they all check for a prescription (which is usually in the form of a medical marijuana card) before letting you step into the building. It's true that they check, but anyone with $100 can, and do, get medical marijuana cards. Most people with medical marijuana cards just like smoking pot.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 PM on October 19, 2009


.

Seriously, do not want. But, on the other hand, I am a fan of states rights (the real meaning, not the "opposite of those in power on a federal level" meaning). Ahh, complexity.

I live in Denver now. I am looking forward to no longer living near "dispensaries" selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year.

(Real doctors don't advertise in the back of the weekly alternative paper.)

Oh well. On balance, I like this decision but only if it actually applied all the way around. (Like, for instance, equal-marriage states getting treated fairly under IRS tax rules with regard to "same sex" marriages.) Since there is almost no chance this will be applied all the way around, I am not a fan.
posted by andreaazure at 2:18 PM on October 19, 2009


Late breaking news: Judge rules against LA's medical pot moratorium, with some history behind DA Cooley's recent plans but no analysis how it will effect them (but I'll be it's not good for him).

I stumbled upon that story while looking for info on a Morro Bay pot dispensary owner who had been vigorously prosecuted by the Feds.
posted by wendell at 3:16 PM on October 19, 2009


I am looking forward to no longer living near "dispensaries" selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year.

Why? Are you afraid somebody is going to thrust a joint in her hand while cackling "FIRST ONE'S FREE, KID! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW" and then disappearing in a puff of demonic smoke?
posted by Avenger at 3:18 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I live in Denver now. I am looking forward to no longer living near "dispensaries" selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year.

Do you have any liquor stores near your house?
posted by empath at 3:23 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Setting legality aside for a second, why so much vitriol about people selling it for profit? If it were legalized flat-out, that would be the only people selling it. I don't see why the operators have to personally be on a crusade to "help the sick" to avoid the sleazebag label. I don't expect people running a grocery store are on a mission to feed the hungry, yet no one gives them any grief about it.

Perhaps an argument can be made that they are hurting the medical-dispensaries by bringing negative attention (since it's currently illegal) but on the other hand I don't think drawing a line in the sand between medical and recreational use is very helpful in the broader context of legalization. It's a compromise made because denying sick people the only thing that works for them is unconscionable to enough people in some states to get this concession made. I happen to think having it illegal at all is just as bad, which makes me not a big fan of "medical use is OK, getting high/selling for profit is sleazy" rhetoric.
posted by cj_ at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


At least, not as long as there's a damn liquore store on every corner. Talk about double standards fueled by culture war bullshit. On lack of preview, this made me cringe:

> I am looking forward to no longer living near "dispensaries" selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year.

posted by cj_ at 3:35 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


California guidelines for the security and non-diversion of marijuana grown for medical use
posted by hortense at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2009


Eh, I've probably smoked more pot than everyone else in this thread put together.

As a young man I helped gather thousands of petition signatures for Prop 215 in California.

The amount of dispensaries in LA and West Hollywood are astounding. I can probably walk to more than a dozen of them without walking very far at all - there are at least 4-5 of them within a half mile radius.

And, yeah, many of them are shady looking like not so subtle speakeasies. Medical Marijuana wasn't supposed to be a goddamn carnival, and the for-profit "dispensaries" and overly liberal issuing of MM cards are kind of fucking things up for the people who actually need it, IMNSHO.

Granted - I wouldn't balk at all if it was just outright legalized and I could grow it without legal risk or otherwise grab some at the corner store - but the for-profit dispensaries are missing the point. Those were supposed to be non-profit co-ops that had a working relationship with patients. These for-profit operators had nothing to do with getting 215 passed. They don't want to be taxed. They just want a quick buck. This is not what I wore out a pair of shoes collecting signatures for.

This is exactly what critics of 215 said was going to happen - that it was going to be (ab)used as a defacto legalization scheme.

This angers me and offends my sensibilities in ways I'm not able to currently articulate because I'm just having one of those GRAR WHO PUT ANTS IN MY FUCKING COFFEE!!? kind of days where everything is stupid.

Anyway, it's still cheaper to just buy it underground. It probably always will be.
posted by loquacious at 4:05 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I look forward to Big Pharma also being made not-for-profit.
posted by absalom at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2009


I would love to make the liquor stores go away. But please don't reduce this to "Since other things bad exist, this bad thing must be allowed."
posted by andreaazure at 4:17 PM on October 19, 2009


> I would love to make the liquor stores go away. But please don't reduce this to "Since other things bad exist, this bad thing must be allowed."

Um, you are presupposing that I consider liquor stores a bad thing. I don't think I can find common ground with a neoprohibitionist, so this debate is a non-starter for me.
posted by cj_ at 4:20 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


But please don't reduce this to "Since other things bad exist, this bad thing must be allowed."

So you think alcohol should be banned as well. Right, then, full marks for consistency.
posted by empath at 4:24 PM on October 19, 2009


I live in Denver now. I am looking forward to no longer living near "dispensaries" selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year.

Do you have any idea what is going on "not far from" your child right now?

Be afraid.

-
posted by General Tonic at 4:29 PM on October 19, 2009


andreaazure: "I live in Denver now. I am looking forward to no longer living near 'dispensaries' selling pot not far from where my child would be going to school next year."

Just curious, what exactly about the dispensary are you afraid of? Do you also have reservations about traditional pharmacies, which distribute far more dangerous drugs?
posted by mullingitover at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2009


I would love to make the liquor stores go away.

From my cold, dead hands, etc...
posted by quin at 7:00 PM on October 19, 2009


Which one is likely to produce a higher value in goods and services you can steal?

I see what you did there, man.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:48 PM on October 19, 2009


While I support medical marijuana in theory, in reality they might as well just legalize it here in California, as the medical marijuana legislation basically makes it possible for anyone who really wants a prescription for it can get one.

I have a friend who gets bad migraines, and she has a prescription. It helps her considerably, but still, you have to admit... claiming you have occasional migraines is about the easiest thing in the world to do.

Of course, it's not just migraines. The list of ailments that you can get medical marijuana for is voluminous.

You can get it for a cough, diarrhea, insomnia, constipation, obesity, color blindness, PMS, herpes, hypertension, diabetes, nightmares, alcoholism, eczema, upset stomach, motion sickness, back pain / sprains...

Add in a future public health insurance option, and it's enough to make you wonder whether one day only idiots will get busted for marijuana in CA. It also makes you wonder what the policy will be regarding government insurance or state co-ops paying to subsidize some people's drug habits.

In short, there probably isn't a good "half-way" solution once a state accepts medical marijuana. You might as well legalize it... and tax everyone significantly, except possibly those who need it for very specific, very serious reasons.
posted by markkraft at 1:30 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marijuana for obesity? That's like getting cocaine for anxiety.
posted by electroboy at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it far more likely that fly-by-night places with goofy names, prize wheels and the like are far more likely to be violating the medicinal marijuana laws than the stellar, low-key dispensary closest to me.

Why? That's the same argument the cops make. Stay low-profile, don't make any money, and we'll leave you alone.

The capitalist motive (making money, marketing) is what legitimizes marijuana as a medicine. That's why they like to bust the big earners, regardless of how "shady" or "not low key" they are.

Sorry if you think I called you a racist. I didn't, but I apologize for insinuating that your opinion of shady looking was based on darker skinned folks hanging around outside.

I still can't understand how "goofy names, prize wheels, and the like" = "shady," but I guess it's semantics. I apologize again.

Eh, I've probably smoked more pot than everyone else in this thread put together.

That sounds like a dare.

As a young man I helped gather thousands of petition signatures for Prop 215 in California.

... and if you were a young man then, I already have a huge head start.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2009



Marijuana for obesity? That's like getting cocaine for anxiety.

Meh, no calories from pot smoke like you get with alcohol. Plus pot can make something as simple and light as fruit or a salad become an incredibly satisfying experience.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:50 PM on October 20, 2009


delmoi wrote: There is a lot of antipathy for pot smokers out there, especially among the police.

That isn't my experience, police or no. Pretty much everyone I know thinks that pot charges shouldn't be pursued except in the most egregious cases or it should be outright legalized. This includes people from all walks of life.

Much of my family are in law enforcement and they seem to nearly universally agree that busting someone for small-time possession is a complete waste of their time. They talk about it in terms of being annoyed that the idiot stoners are being so obvious about it that it forces them to do something about it. The only exception seems to be when somebody's got a pound and a gun on the seat next to them.

That's not to say there aren't gung-ho officers out there who will go into a frenzy at the mere smell of marijuana, I merely contend that they do not make up the majority of the police departments.

Amongst the more religionist authoritarians I know, there is much less tolerance of marijuana use. At best they might agree that there are more important things for police to be doing, although they fully support the concept of arresting drug users when it's not diverting resources from more important things.
posted by wierdo at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2009


I suspect that marijuana would be a non-issue if the first thing that came into the minds of most citizens when someone mentioned it wasn't "1969".
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2009




I suspect that marijuana would be a non-issue if the first thing that came into the minds of most citizens when someone mentioned it wasn't "1969".


How old are most citizens? I was two at the time so my memories of the sixties are kind of hazy. Then again, I have heard most people who teenagers at the time have hazy memories of things back in the day.
posted by Tashtego at 9:21 PM on October 20, 2009


Court Slams LAPD For Illegally Seizing Medical Marijuana Profits
posted by homunculus at 11:56 AM on October 21, 2009


just noticing the business press climbing on board... part of the mainstreaming of pot?
posted by kliuless at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2009


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