Betrayed by Barack
By Norm Kent
Some of the letters prosecutors sent out also warned the state and city-licensed dispensaries of enhanced federal penalties if their businesses happened to be within a thousand feet of schools or playgrounds.
Four US Attorneys gathered on Black Friday in Sacramento to announce the ultimatums delivered to at least 38 dispensaries throughout the state. Declaring that federal law “took precedence over state law and applies regardless of the particular uses for which a dispensary is selling and distributing marijuana," they told the proprietors they just don’t give a damn what laws California has enacted and whether their dispensaries are in compliance with local municipal ordinances or not.
“We are the kings,” they said, and you shall do our bidding or ‘go directly to jail.’ Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. To them, it was a game, and they were the game makers.
The US Attorneys, wearing suits invisibly emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, announced that any dispensary that remained open “would be subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions,” including the seizure of real and personal property. No discussion. No debate. Just jail and seizures, fines and forfeiture.
The new road follows the appointment of a drug czar who was not sympathetic to dispensaries. It follows months of threats and warnings from local federales. And it follows months of IRS audits and bank actions refusing dispensary accounts.
The Obama Administration’s false promises were a misleading ruse, lulling supporters to expand and enhance dispensaries throughout California. This law enforcement initiative reflects that Obama was either never supportive of medical marijuana efforts or is transparently powerless to supervise the very US attorneys he has appointed.
Either way, this new legal initiative will send a message not only to the sixteen states that have enacted medical marijuana laws. It will intimidate and warn others not to even try. Threatened municipal officials will see what is happening in California and back off everywhere else. Prohibition has returned, in a big, federal way. Thanks, Mr. President.
To his credit, Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, was one of the first persons to condemn the administration. He published a column in the Huffington Post entitled: “Obama- From First to Worst on Medical Marijuana.”
Two months later Obama added that he would stop the DEA’s raids on growers since “our federal agents have better things to do, like catching criminals and preventing terrorism." As columnist Jacob Sullum wrote yesterday, Oregon medical marijuana growers who were raided by the DEA last weekend probably are wishing that guy had been elected president.
As for those enterprises which legitimately invested their life savings in starting a ‘cannabiziness’ which complied with local and state regulations, and offered a public service to those who found marijuana had legitimate medical uses, well they are just damn well out of luck. Who ever said the government was going to be fair? Who ever believed the government could not be ruthless?
What will go away is the potential revenue stream lawful distribution could have generated, the public safety regulation would have brought, and the access medical patients so desperately need.
A Florida attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Norm Kent serves on the NORML Board of Directors.