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News (Media Awareness Project) - UC CA: Editorial: State Needs To Clear Smoke In Medical Pot Law
Title:UC CA: Editorial: State Needs To Clear Smoke In Medical Pot Law
Published On:2011-10-17
Source:Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Fetched On:2011-10-19 06:00:36
STATE NEEDS TO CLEAR SMOKE IN MEDICAL POT LAW

On the menu for Santa Rosa's Organic Cannabis Foundation, you'll find
18 strains of marijuana with evocative names such as "blackberry
kush," "cindy haze" and "sweet nightmare," accompanied by color
photos and brief descriptions of their effects. "Very potent and
spacey," says one. Another is "strong, medicinal, indoor bargain bud."

If pot smoke is too hard on your lungs, don't worry. You can choose
from a variety of baked goods - cookies, brownies, even pizza. Or
there's candy, olive oil and ice cream, all laced with marijuana.

Medical marijuana is a thriving business in California. All it takes
is $50 and some vague symptoms to qualify as a "patient," and
thousands of "dispensaries" will cater to your tastes and desires. A
San Francisco venture capitalist started pumping money into the
industry, which has an estimated annual retail trade of $1.5 billion.

But California's first-in-the-nation medical marijuana law - "the
compassionate use act" - wasn't about pot boutiques and hefty
profits. It was about providing relief for people with serious
illnesses such as cancer and glaucoma. In the 15 years since voters
approved Proposition 15, the practice has strayed far from the law's purpose.

And that's what appears to be driving the latest crackdown by federal
prosecutors.

On Oct. 7, the four U.S. attorneys for California said they were
taking aim at large-scale growers and dispensary owners who profit
from the medical marijuana trade. They also warned landlords that
their property could be subject to forfeiture under federal drug laws.

"People are using the cover of medical marijuana to make
extraordinary amounts of money," said Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney
for the Northern District, which includes Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

This isn't a reversal of course for the Justice Department, as some
dispensary owners and their lawyers claim. Nor is it a betrayal of
President Barack Obama's promise to give states room to maneuver on
medical marijuana.

It would be if the prosecutors were going after users or caregivers -
the people specifically authorized by Proposition 215 to possess and
grow pot for medical use. But they're not. Their targets are the
profiteers, and that includes many, if not most dispensaries, where
pot is typically sold at black-market prices.

"We have yet to find a single instance in which a marijuana store was
able to prove that it was a not-for-profit organization," said Andre
Birotte, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, where a recent indictment
alleged that one pot shop cleared $15 million in profits in just eight months.

The crackdown should be taken as the latest signal that California
needs to address its vague medical marijuana law. Only Congress can
address the conflict between state and federal law, but it's not
likely to act if California doesn't clear the smoke about Proposition 215.

It's likely to require voter approval, but California needs to
clarify what ailments can be legitimately treated with marijuana, set
standards for growers, ensure that dispensaries operate as nonprofits
and end the practice of doctors providing sham recommendations for a quick buck.
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