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Some thoughts of mine about the way city authorities have been going after the medical marijuana community and acting as if there is some mandated compliance with federal authorities. On to the Muckraking! Thanks in advance for all musings and comments, all the well reasoned responses to my first diary were a pleasure.

Several cities in medical marijuana states have curiously, albeit predictably, began going after marijuana dispensaries and growers. Los Angeles, for example, recently send out notices to over 200 dispensaries informing them that they were facing a shutdown as they had not registered for the city lottery that would only authorize 100 winning dispensaries to operate within the city. Also in California, the city of Dana Point has actually sued and won civil damages to the tune of 2 million dollars against dispensaries it claimed were violating the law. Such victories don’t come cheap however, as the lawyer fees alone have amounted to almost $400,000 in tax money. Most recently, in Michigan, an Oakland county prosecutor has claimed all dispensaries to be illegal and called for a law enforcement campaign against them.

Why are these city authorities so eager to fight medical marijuana? Why have law enforcement agencies stated in the past that they would enforce federal laws even if the state passed a legalization measure? No doubt there are plenty of less than altruistic motives, from federal funding to simple ideological zeal, but these are ultimately irrelevant. What does however matter is that none of these city officials have any legal duty to enforce federal laws. The issue at hand is not the Supremacy clause of the US Constitution, but rather the little known Prigg v. Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision from 1842. The case presented a conflict between the federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 and a Pennsylvania statute that made it a felony to forcibly remove escaped slaves from the state. While the court found the state statute unconstitutional as it conflicted with federal law, the decision stated that:

As to the authority so conferred upon state magistrates [to deal with runaway slaves], while a difference of opinion has existed, and may exist still on the point, in different states, whether state magistrates are bound to act under it; none is entertained by this Court that state magistrates may, if they choose, exercise that authority, unless prohibited by state legislation.”

This essentially meant that while laws interfering with federal enforcement were unconstitutional, the state was under no obligation to actually enforce federal laws. This ruling still stands today and thus affirms that there is nothing compelling state or city authorities to aid in the enforcement of federal marijuana laws. They are free agents, so long as they do not directly interfere with federal operations.

The marijuana reform movement has thus far failed to capitalize on this duty/desire dichotomy to influence opinion. It is easy for an elected official to hide under the cover of doing their job, to present themselves as a helpless but determined impartial enforcer of orders from a up high. It is not however so easy to appear as a willing and eager party to unnecessary enforcement. There is a political price, and it is time to collect. This is the message that needs to be used to hammer these local drug warriors in the medical marijuana states. It its time for them to publicly chose a side, to drop the pretense of being a mere tool and admit that they are accomplices to the federal persecution

Originally posted at 420petition

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Comment Preferences

  •  You would think the budget crisis ... (6+ / 0-)

    ... facing virtually all local governments would motivate them to prioritize law enforcement efforts in ways that actually make communities safer.

    My guess is that this is really a NIMBY issue. People are generally OK with the idea of medical marijuana, but they are uneasy about dispensaries in their own neighborhoods.

    And why has AG Holder decided to make himself the Elliot Ness of marijuana? At some point this must be addressed at the federal level. States regulate alcohol; it should be the same with cannabis.

    You'd think that honest states' rights conservatives and libertarians would join with liberals on this one.

  •  Marijuana will NEVER be legal. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, Gr33nerPastures

    Because the money from prohibition is hundreds of billions of dollars more than what could possibly be collected from taxes. Besides once it's legal, what's to prevent people from cultivating their own to avoid taxes... But I digress.

    Think of it like this: By the government's own statistics, there are 12.8 million regular "drug abusers" in the US. But 9.8 million of those are potheads.

    There are aproximately (no one knows for sure) 1 million heroin addicts in the US. There are about (again, no one is sure) 5 million regular cocaine users, and that includes all forms of the drug.

    All the other drugs including meth are another couple of million users. Bear in mind there is massive overlap in drug usage, including marijuana. But the concensus seems to be that even though the Fed's say there are 9.8 million "regular users" of pot, there are millions more who are casual users, possibly as many as 75 million.

    So what would they do with the $40 billion dollars a year they spend on "The War on -People- Drugs" without "9.8 million" additional people to try to incarcerate? Hillary Clinton accidently told the truth to the Mexican President when he suggested legalization, she said it wouldn't happen because "too many jobs were at stake".  So they are going to spend it on going after about 3 million drug users. About $13,000 per heroin/cocaine/meth head/etc. user. BTW, these are very conservative figures. If you include State budgets, and un-funded/underfunded mandates handed down by regulatory fiat, the guesstimate of the real yearly cost of jailing people for being sick reaches about $75 Billion dollars.

    So, will they dismantle the DEA, the prison-industrial complex, the drug testing industry (98% of positive tests are for pot), reduce the numbers of prosecutors, police, parole and probation officers, and the superfluous ancillary personell? Not on your life.

    Besides, then thugs in uniforms can't dress-up like SEALS with military-grade weaponry and invade peoples homes, shoot the dog regrdless if it's a threat (it's astonishing how much this happens!) frighten kids if not shoot them, tear apart families and treat peaceful people like rabid animals. And that's the people they raid by mistake!

    Try this. In case you don't believe me.
    Or this.

    We are the Stupidest Nation on the Planet. (tm)

    "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

    by CanisMaximus on Wed May 11, 2011 at 07:39:02 PM PDT

    •  While I agree with you about the Gov interest (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is also true that they are not all powerful, as more states simply refuse to comply the policy will have to slowly change. Sure the prison-industrial complex stands a lot to lose as does the police apparatus. But simply because these are formidable opponents does not mean we have to give up fighting this evil. We CAN win.

  •  Our national drug laws are a disgrace. (2+ / 0-)


    It cost $50,000 per person per year to keep them in jail.

    And, what does it do to our social fabric that over 70 million Americans, are by definition "criminals."

    Also, most medical professionals tell us most serious, drug users, have medical problems, or mential health problems they are trying to self-medicate.

    It should not be constitutional to deny people the right to self-medicate their own states, in a country to barbaric, selfish, and primitive to provide adequate health care for all citizens.

    I disagree with the premise that marijuana should be illegal, in the first place, however, if the government were going to get involved in it at all, it should be with our medical, and social service systems, not criminal and military interventions.

    We have been perpetrating a "War on American Drug Users."

    A nation divided against itself will not stand.  

    I am deeply dissappointed in President Obama's and Eric Holder's choices in this regard.

    I beg them to rethink their inadequate, and racist response so far.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Wed May 11, 2011 at 08:22:27 PM PDT

    •  Very true (0+ / 0-)

      But public opinion rules the day if its strong enough. Politicians will happily throw the law enforcement lobby under the bus if their re-election is genuinely threatened over it. That is the way, if they know a vote against legalization/reform will cost them their position of power, they will aquiesce.

  •  I agree with local law enforcement on this (0+ / 0-)

    If marijuana is being legalized in certain states as medical marijuana, then those jurisdictions have an obligation to enforce all relevant licensing regulations and ensure that the product is safe and effective, and that the people operating the dispensaries are legitimate health care providers.  The purpose of medical marijuana laws was not to allow existing criminal drug enterprises to go into health care.

    If drug companies began selling drugs that were contaminated, or dispensing drugs through criminal syndicates, we'd be up in arms.  Rules that apply to the rest of the health care industry will have to apply to medical marijuana.

    The people seeking medical marijuana have serious health issues and it is important that local jurisdictions ensure that the product they receive is safe and effective.

  •  Forgot to add-you misinterpreted these actions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These cases are not about local law enforcement enforcing the federal laws against marijuana.

    Its that these states legalized medical marijuana, under stringent regulations that ensure that the dispensaries will be run properly.  In one jurisdiction in one of the stories, the dispensaries must be non profit, but local law enforcement found that they were operating as for profit enterprises.  In another, the dispensaries were limited to 100 locations, to be distributed by lottery, and dispensaries opened without winning the lottery.  In another, law enforcement emphasized that the patients need to have a prescription from a doctor, but the dispensaries were selling the drug without prescription to people who did not have medical conditions.

    In other words, these are cases of local law enforcement enforcing the local laws that made medical marijuana available in the first place.

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