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New Medical Marijuana Regulations Are a Good Thing

Submitted by smorgan on
Bruce Mirken at the MPP Blog points out this observation from the LA Times:

Most of the negative consequences can be attributed to the gap between state and federal marijuana laws. The fact that even sellers considered legitimate by the state can be prosecuted and ruined by federal agents encourages black-market dealers, who endanger their communities by ignoring fire codes, selling to healthy minors and fighting turf wars with other dealers.

Overall, Proposition 215 has done more good than harm. In addition to marijuana's medical benefits, its legitimate sale brings in $100 million a year in tax revenues, and even though it can be abused by users, it isn't demonstrably more dangerous to society than tobacco and alcohol. The state's new guidelines will help reduce the measure's harmful side effects, but the only long-term solution is for the feds to stop the medical marijuana raids and leave California law enforcement to California officers.

The longer Californians live under Prop. 215, the clearer that central point becomes. Federal interference is the obvious remaining source of chaos in California’s medical marijuana economy. Once that obstacle is removed, everything else will fall into place. By developing formal guidelines for legally providing medical marijuana, Attorney General Brown has taken an important step towards further legitimizing medical marijuana distribution.

Of course, the flipside is that the new regulations will give local police more leverage to go after dispensaries that don’t follow the guidelines. Providers will be required to operate on a "not-for-profit" basis, which means "reinvesting excess revenue (after salary and overhead) in patients services for members, advocacy for patients, or other typical nonprofit activity."

It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds and I imagine there will be problems, but I’m not sure the San Francisco Chronicle quite understands what this is all about:

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has ordered a crackdown on medical pot clubs that are selling the drug for big profits.

The move puts the state a bit more in line with the feds in dealing with the explosion of questionable marijuana dispensaries since the passage of Proposition 215 more than a decade ago.

The single most important thing to understand about the new regulations is that they forbid police from disrupting legitimate medical marijuana activity as authorized under Prop. 215. To say that this somehow brings the state "a bit more in line with the feds" is dubious since federal law prohibits any medical marijuana distribution whatsoever. Since the DEA has often claimed that their enforcement is focused on operations that violate California law, the new regulations could effectively render DEA’s involvement obsolete, while protecting any provider with enough common sense to follow the guidelines.

So while the new rules are likely to create problems for some participants in the medical marijuana economy, the overarching concept behind all of this is that California’s medical marijuana laws should be enforced by California’s police, not the DEA. It is a necessary step towards further legitimizing medical access in the years to come.

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