The Irrationality of Banning Marijuana Offenders From Working at Dispensaries

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As the Nation's Capital moves quickly towards implementing our very long-awaited medical marijuana law, we suddenly find ourselves obsessing over the sorts of local regulations many of us have only observed from afar. As one might imagine, the D.C. City Council is less than thoroughly experienced when it comes to regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, resulting in proposed amendments like this one:

No person with a misdemeanor conviction for a drug-related offense or felony conviction shall own or work for a registered dispensary

Whoa, slow down there. Naturally, none of us want to see D.C.'s first dispensaries run by a bunch of thugged-out ex-cons, but let's all just stop and think about this for a second. Would you ban someone from working in the medical marijuana industry because they have an arrest on their record for…medical marijuana?

It just so happens that many people in the patient and caregiver community have been arrested, not because of their own character flaws, but because of long-standing character flaws in the criminal law itself that turn sick people into criminals. We've waited an unbelievable 11 years for Congress to step aside and allow this law to take effect. Certainly, anyone who's accumulated battle scars during that time shouldn't be sanctioned again now that their past actions will finally be protected under the law.  

If the people of the District of Columbia can agree, as they emphatically did back in 1998, that it's wrong to arrest patients for medical marijuana, then we really shouldn’t be closing new doors to those who've had the misfortune of being arrested for their medicine. This is by no means the most significant regulatory hurdle to be overcome in D.C., but I find it noteworthy for the ironic prejudice it exhibits towards the exact people this law is designed to protect.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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