Pubdate: Sat, 05 Nov 2011
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Record Searchlight
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Since the Obama administration's decision - about which it has since 
waffled - to let states go their own way when it comes to medical 
marijuana, California's cities have struggled to tame the 
still-illegal trade, to accommodate patients without letting 
lawbreakers run unrestrained.

But a recent California Court of Appeal decision makes that effort 
far more difficult.

Ruling in Pack vs. City of Long Beach, the court threw out a city 
ordinance much like Redding's that licensed and strictly regulated 
medical-marijuana shops. The decision, in essence, says that 
California authorities can decline to prosecute marijuana users or 
growers - can look the other way - but that actually licensing 
marijuana sales is a step too far, violating the federal Controlled 
Substances Act.

The judges presumably have their law straight. As a practical matter, 
though, the decision will create a far more chaotic situation.

The upside of police licensing like Redding's is that it gives co-ops 
incentives to restrict the nuisances, to avoid sales to minors and 
unauthorized "patients," to be good neighbors. And it lets the police 
keep a close, consistent eye on businesses where the potential for 
criminality is obvious. Police Chief Peter Hansen says he sees 
widespread abuse of doctors' recommendations to let casual pot 
smokers avoid prosecution, but the collectives themselves, he says, 
generally work hard to comply with the law.

Without local licensing, though, they'll have far less incentive to 
work with law enforcement. And while no decision has been made, the 
city's likely response will be to order dispensaries to simply close.

That won't bother many locals a bit. But it's hard to see how people 
will sell or use less marijuana just because the trade goes back 
underground - especially since marijuana gardens are ubiquitous and 
criminal prosecution of users and growers has become a rarity.

Redding's licensing system helps manage a gray market that is, under 
the law, half criminal and half legitimate. A sane way to bridge that 
legal divide is exactly what California needs. Unfortunately, for 
now, the courts say sanity is illegal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom