Pubdate: Wed, 11 Apr 2012
Source: News, The (SC)
Copyright: 2012 Kingstree Communications, Inc.
Author: Stephanie Kossman '15


California voters chose to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 with
Proposition 15, but controversy surrounding the medical uses of the
drug continues to this day. Although the use and distribution of
marijuana for medical purposes is legal in the state with a permit,
the federal government often displays its authority over the state by
shutting down marijuana dispensaries. On Monday, April 1, federal
agents raised the controversy to a new level when they raided
Oaksterdam University, the nation's first marijuana trade school,
which teaches cultivation, edible production and dispensary business.
The institution is owned by one of the most prominent proponents of
legalized medical marijuana, activist Richard Lee, whose own home,
dispensary and marijuana museum were also raided.

The federal government appears to be sending a warning message not
only to Californians, but also to national advocates of the
legalization movement. By specifically attacking Lee, one of the most
influential people in the medical marijuana movement, the federal
government proves its willingness to go after any dispensary. Indeed,
the Feds have not shown any hesitation in conducting sweeps-according
to the Los Angeles Times, they've carried out 170 raids since 2009.

By conducting these raids, however, the federal government is taking
unnecessary and unethical action. The 10th amendment of our
constitution gives states the right to dictate their own laws. Yet, by
imposing their authority on harmless issues, the federal government
completely condescends the authority of the state. Lee is not a drug
lord working the legal system to distribute marijuana; he is a
paraplegic who uses marijuana to treat muscle spasticity and
understands the medical benefits of the drug. In addition, Lee has put
his dispensary earnings toward supporting Proposition 19, a ballot
initiative that, if passed, will allow all people over the age of 21
to legally purchase and use up to one ounce of marijuana. Lee's
devotion to the legal process, rather than simply marijuana use,
proves that he seeks the opportunity for responsible adults to gain
access to medical marijuana in order to benefit as he has.

Instead of wasting time on legal businesses, the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) should focus on illegal action. Lee's business
does not pose a threat to any citizen. As a matter of fact, residents
argue that the Oakdale area, the location of the raid, has other
greater safety issues to be treated. For instance, a local citizen
stated in the Los Angeles Times that there is a large amount of
illegal gun possession. In the shadow of the marijuana trade, these
more pressing matters are being ignored.

Still, the government's actions do have some credibility. California's
medical marijuana laws are known for being flimsy, as there is no
clear rule for how medical marijuana should be distributed. So, it
makes sense that the federal government would feel compelled to check
on major cultivation and dispensary businesses. Nevertheless, federal
raids are probably more trouble than they are worth. The federal
government raids dispensaries in order to protect citizens. However,
the more legal dispensaries that are shut down, the more people are
going to pursue illegal sources for marijuana. This will fuel the
illegal economy, producing less income for the government and more
danger for U.S. citizens.

In addition, if the aim of the federal government's raid on Lee's
assets was to hamper efforts at national legalization, it was probably
a bad idea. The raid triggered so much anger among medical marijuana
users that the movement for national legalization has actually
increased in an attempt to stop further raids.

The raid has also uncovered a discrepancy in President Obama's
position on medical marijuana use. During his 2008 campaign, he
promised not to prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with
state law. So, in addition to highlighting the federal government's
tendency to abuse power when it comes to drug-related issues, the raid
is also a prime example of Obama's inability to stick to his promises.

The federal government should only extend its power over the states
when it is at the people's best interest, as opposed to raiding legal
marijuana dispensaries that do not pose a threat to any citizen. If
the federal government plans to continue pursuing irrational raids on
legal dispensaries and citizens' private homes in California, it
should be on the lookout for the very thing it seeks to prevent:
rising support for national legalization. Consequently, it may be
difficult for politicians who lack the acceptance of legal marijuana
to win elections. Whether we like it or not, marijuana has and will
continue to shape our political world. 
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