Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2011
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Lawrence Bragman
Note: Lawrence Bragman is a lawyer and a member of the Fairfax Town Council.


FOR the past four months, the four United States Attorney offices in 
California have begun a "crackdown" on medical marijuana dispensaries 
in our state.

The crackdown is a departure from previous policy and judicial 
commitments by the Department of Justice to prioritize scarce 
enforcement resources elsewhere.

Recent events in Fairfax demonstrate that the crackdown is inhumane 
and counterproductive.

In 1996, the voters of our state overwhelming approved the 
Compassionate Use Act which allows patients to grow and possess 
marijuana with a physician's recommendation. The Marin Alliance of 
Medical Marijuana began operating as the state's first publicly 
licensed medical marijuana dispensary pursuant to a use permit issued 
by the town of Fairfax in 1997.

The permit regulated all material aspects of dispensary operations 
including the location, the size of signage, hours of operation, 
medical record inspection and product inventory. Legislation recently 
passed by the state granted the alliance a legal exemption from 
exclusionary zoning rules.

The Marin Alliance was flexible and responsive to the needs and 
concerns of the community. Both the Marin Alliance and its landlord 
cooperated fully with the Fairfax Police Department to address the 
concerns of the surrounding community and to ensure safe access for 
physician-qualified patients.

And for 14 years, the Marin Alliance provided safe and reliable 
access to a broad cross section of Marin residents who benefit from 
medical marijuana.

In spite of its compliance with state and local law, this model of a 
locally regulated dispensary was targeted for closure by the U.S. 
Attorney's office.

On Sept. 28, the alliance's landlord was notified the dispensary was 
prohibited under federal law and he faced criminal prosecution and 
property forfeiture unless it was closed. With his personal liberty 
and property at risk, the landlord was forced to evict the Marin 
Alliance. After 14 years of operation, the Marin Alliance moved out 
of the premises and ceased operations as of Dec. 17.

With the forced closure of the Marin Alliance, Marin has lost its 
only legal medical marijuana dispensary. Patients, who have lost safe 
and legal access to physician-recommended medicine, will undoubtedly 
turn to the black market. Several long-term, well-paying jobs at the 
dispensary have been killed and the town, already struggling with the 
recession, has lost a sales tax-contributing member of the business community.

To what end does this policy serve?

The Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a new report for June 
2011, declaring the global war on drugs a failure. The billions of 
dollars now being spent on policing, prosecution and imprisonment 
could and should be redirected toward more productive and essential 
governmental functions.

At the same time, recent scientific studies which confirm that 
cannabis can provide definitive medical benefits for a host of 
medical conditions need to be acknowledged and pursued.

The only way to rationalize our antiquated drug policy is to 
acknowledge the facts and effectuate a Congressional reclassification 
of marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses.

Both the governors of Rhode Island and Washington have publicly 
supported such a change which would allow states like California to 
safely regulate its use without fear of federal prosecution.

Our country needs to have the courage to be compassionate and there 
is no time like the present to begin.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom