Prosecutors Threaten Pot Dispensaries

Prosecutors Threaten Pot Dispensaries
Posted by CN Staff on September 04, 2008 at 10:02:37 PT
By Allison B. Margolin
Source: Los Angeles Daily News
CA -- Last week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued guidelines to regulate medical-marijuana-related activities in California. Ostensibly, he issued these guidelines to clarify the boundaries regarding patients, caregivers, collectives and law enforcement. Ultimately, however, the vagueness of the guidelines will only further motivate law enforcement and district attorneys throughout the state who are sincerely trying to follow the laws.
In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, a referendum allowing the state's residents to use medical marijuana when a physician approved or recommended its use. Retail stores - commonly known as dispensaries or cannabis clubs - cropped up throughout California despite the fact the California statute did not specifically authorize them. For the next eight years, the California courts handed down a number of decisions outlining the limits of the law. Despite the popularity and proliferation of the medical stores, the state judiciary indicated that operators of such businesses could not look to the California law for protection. The 1996 version of the law only recognized medical-marijuana patients and primary caregivers, defined by the law as people who consistently assumed responsibility for patients' health, welfare, or safety. While the definition seemed vague enough to encompass a variety of roles, the courts made clear that no one seemed to fit the definition of a caregiver. In fact, none of the cases between 1996 and 2004 ever deemed a defendant a caregiver. In 2004, the California Legislature attempted to clarify the law to enhance the access of patients to medical marijuana. The additions to the law allowed for qualified patients and primary caregivers to collectively or cooperatively associate to cultivate marijuana, and suggest that those who do so should be immune from criminal liability for transportation, possession for sales, and sales of marijuana. Again, however, the law failed to broaden the definition of primary caregiver. A look at the legislative record reveals that legislators, through SB 420, intended to put into place safe harbors by which patients would be immunized from arrest if they grew less than a certain number of plants. However, the statute ended up interpreting these as limitations and ultimately SB 420 in many ways ended up abridging rights instead of expanding them. The question of whether a retail store dispensary would qualify as a collective activity was left unresolved in the statute. However, state prosecutors at their whims have continued to selectively prosecute operators of dispensaries as well as those cultivating marijuana. Last week's dispensary guidelines do indicate that storefront dispensaries should not be prosecuted where their activities are not for profit and that dispensaries may allow their members to cultivate on behalf of the dispensary. Despite the fact that the attorney general considers these dispensary-related activities in California law, it is not a binding authority on district attorneys whose power is still left unchecked. In fact, the attorney general's opinion that hashish is considered within the purview of the medical-marijuana statute is often disregarded by prosecutors who claim that they need not follow an attorney general opinion. Finally, the guidelines do nothing to clear up the confusion regarding the meaning of nonprofit, though they do echo the Medical Marijuana Program Act's restriction of collective activities to those conducted on a not-for-profit basis. However, this emphasis will do nothing to explain what is meant by not-for-profit. Currently, police claim that any amount of money seized is evidence of profit-making activities. I have seen the lengths to which prosecutors will exploit the vagueness of the law to prosecute people. The guidelines will do nothing to curb the arbitrariness with which law enforcement and prosecutors selectively enforce it. Only when district attorney offices throughout the state start to rein in out-of-control prosecutors, who put more resources into finding loopholes in medical-marijuana defenses than into prosecuting real crime, will anything change. Only then will patients' and collective operators' rights be protected. Allison Margolin is a criminal-defense attorney in Los Angeles and adjunct professor of law at the University of West Los Angeles Law School. Source: Los Angeles Daily News (CA)Author: Allison B. MargolinPublished: September 3, 2008Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Newspaper GroupWebsite: http://www.dailynews.comContact: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on September 10, 2008 at 10:04:04 PT
Press Release From The Drug Policy Alliance
September 10, 2008URL:
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Comment #5 posted by OverwhelmSam on September 05, 2008 at 07:24:36 PT
Expect A Court Challenge
I expect a law suit to overturn the Attorney General's opinion. Legalize and the problems goes away.
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Comment #4 posted by ALM on September 04, 2008 at 14:05:17 PT:
Right to Cannabis guaranteed under 9th amendment
Amendment 9:  The Enumeration in the Constitution, of certain
  rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage
  others retained by the people.This means that the authors the constitution could not specifically list every right people have, and the fact that a particular right is not explicitly spelled out in the constitution does not mean that people don't have that right.The right of an adult citizen to choose one's own medicine is a fundamental right. FDA regulations are imposed on the providers of medicine, not the person taking the medicine. If someone wants operate a pharmacy and sell medicine to the public, there are regulations to be followed which are to protect the public against unscrupulous and incompetent providers of medicine.In the 19th century anyone could peddle any substance to the public and make any claim about it. Many bogus remedies were marketed to the public including actual snake oil. The FDA was created to protect the public from this practice. But government regulation of commercial sales of medicine to the general public in no way restricts the right of an adult citizen to independently choose a remedy from natural sources.If someone wants to open a barber shop and cut hair for profit, that person must be licensed to do so by the government and abide by regulations which are entirely reasonable and necessary. If people cut their own hair in the privacy of their own homes, these regulations do not apply. In fact, adult citizens have the right to perform surgical procedures on themselves without medical licenses (it is interesting to note that barbers and surgeons are historically related).Since the right to possess and use cannabis is not specifically listed in the constitution, the 9th amendment right to cannabis must inferred through an interpretative process. Judges do this type of thing by inferring the intent of the authors of the constitution.One way to do this is to try to imagine what the authors themselves would say about a particular issue if it were possible to ask them. Keeping in mind that most of the founders of this country were farmers who themselves grew hemp, and that the very paper on which the constitution was written was made from hemp (the final draft is on parchment), it seems likely that they would indeed consider it a fundamental right for citizens to possess and use this plant for any purpose they see fit.A metaphor for this process is called "reading between the lines." If you look at a working copy of the constitution and literally look between the lines, you will be looking at hemp.To state this concept in the simplest possible terms, the government has a mandate to protect citizens from the actions of others, not to protect them from their own judgement.
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Comment #3 posted by observer on September 04, 2008 at 14:00:52 PT
Busting Pot Smokers is Profitable Power Trip
Only when district attorney offices throughout the state ... out-of-control prosecutors ... put more resources into finding loopholes in medical-marijuana defenses than into prosecuting real crimeThere isn't that much "real" crime (i.e. acts that have victims, acts that have been always recognized as crimes such as murder, theft, maiming, etc.), so corrupted government functionaries have discovered it is good business and career advancement if they make up crimes out of thin air. Something "drug" related will do nicely. There's no upper limit to punishment for "drugs", since we all "know" that drugs harm the "community" and unquestionably the existence of "drugs" kills "our children", etc. And of course, we all "know" that pot is the "starter" drug which is all the more insidious and dangerous because our aging hippie boomer parents and others think that pot isn't dangerous - which makes it all the more dangerous, you see. So it is really quite a nice and tidy package of careers, and money and "easy pickings" shall we say, as busting pot smokers is 99% of the time as easy as stealing candy from a baby. Our unions and propagandists (knowlingly or otherwise) will loudly trumpet the "link" between violence and "drugs" whenever any of the 1/3 of pot-smoking Americans get into any kind of trouble. This helps cement the association between "crime" and "drugs" (especially cannabis, of course: the real and main target of the prohibitionists).Because they have the guns, they make the money off of jailing and harassing pot smokers, and they (police and prosecutors) corruptly lobby/threaten any law maker who won't go along with the wholesale scapegoating, demonization and persecution of pot smokers, district attorney offices throughout the state, police, prison guard unions, and out-of-control prosecutors will continue to put more resources into finding loopholes in medical-marijuana defenses than into prosecuting real crime. Because by continuing this, their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Vested interest. 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 04, 2008 at 11:58:25 PT
OT: News Article From Citiwire
Obama, McCain: Who’ll Lead On Drugs, Bloated Prisons? By Neal PeirceFor Release - Sunday, September 7, 2008Copyright: 2008 Washington Post Writers GroupURL:
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on September 04, 2008 at 11:42:55 PT
see Leap for more events
Sep 11 08 Cato Institute Panel 
 Peter Christ Washington District of Columbia USA 
 "Should No Knock Police Raids Be Rare or Routine?" Panel also includes Cheye Calvo- Mayor or Berwyn Heights, MD Radley Balko-Senior Editor, Reason Magazine Cato Institute 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Sep 17 08 KPFT 90.1 FM: Cultural Baggage Terry Nelson Houston Texas USA 
 Enjoy Dean Becker and recurring guest Terry Nelson on the drug policy/criminal justice issue of the week. Available online at, and at Sep 18 08 University of Michigan Greg Francisco Ann Arbor Michigan USA 
 Pendleton Room, Michigan Union 530 S. State Street Sep 18 08 Houston Aldine Lions Club Dean Becker Aldine Texas USA 
 This regular meeting is held at: Tony's Country Kitchen 1911 Aldine Bender Sep 18 08 KTAO 101.9 with Marcus Sanders Gary Johnson Taos New Mexico USA 
 LEAP Advisory Board member former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson will be interviewed listen live via the Internet at
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