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A rude federal awakening for medical pot dreams

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on April 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm with 4 Comments »
April 15, 2011 5:55 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The feds have come down – hard – on the Legislature’s plans to expand medical marijuana far beyond the voters’ original mandate. Marijuana enthusiasts have only themselves to blame.

Gov. Chris Gregoire did the state a favor Wednesday by trying to clarify how the U.S. Department of Justice might react to the free-wheeling dope industry many lawmakers having been pushing to legalize with a new bill.

The two U.S. attorneys who cover Washington quickly spelled out their likely response: fines, property forfeitures, lawsuits and possible criminal prosecutions. Individual state officials might be targeted if they licensed grow operations and dispensaries, as the measure proposes.

Later Thursday, Gregoire said she would veto the legislation as written.

Read the U.S. attorneys’ letter and you’ll see where they’re coming from. The Justice Department, they said, isn’t interested in pursuing “seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law.”

But marijuana profiteers – be they enabling doctors, retailers, wholesalers, processors or growers – are a different story.

In Washington and elsewhere, they have defied both state and federal law to turn medical marijuana into a commercial industry replete with marijuana shops, festive farmers markets and clinics that do nothing but prescribe marijuana – often quite loosely. The City of Tacoma alone has recklessly licensed 35 dispensaries, with seven more on the way.

Thumb your nose at the feds often enough and openly enough, and sooner or later you wind up in their cross hairs. It was foolish to extrapolate the Justice Department’s sympathy for legitimate patients to a tolerance of any kind of trafficking that labeled itself “medical marijuana.”

For lawmakers, it’s back to the drawing board. Sick people who genuinely need marijuana should be able to get it, legally, without having to grow it themselves.

Shared gardens, nonprofit dispensaries and co-ops might not have triggered federal scrutiny if big money hadn’t been changing hands – and they would have reflected the spirit of the 1998 initiative that legalized medical marijuana under tight restrictions.

The state Senate would have addressed some of the federal concerns. Its version of the marijuana bill would have banned for-profit dispensaries and dope docs. It also wouldn’t have forced dispensaries on unwilling cities and counties.

The House bill leaned more toward the Hempfest vision of medical marijuana; it would have licensed profit-driven dispensaries, let medical enablers keep on enabling and forbidden local communities from saying no.

Both bills envisioned large-scale commercial pot farms, which were never going to happen.

Congress ought to amend the Controlled Substance Act to permit bona fide therapeutic use of the cannabinoids in marijuana, which can help patients with a narrow range of medical conditions. But the Justice Department was already permitting such use; it drew the line only after traffickers started operating as if they were immune from the law.
To the extent that “medical marijuana” reflects actual medical practices and controls, it’s not likely to run into trouble. But if the industry walks and talks like a grand drug-dealing scheme, it shouldn’t be surprised to find itself treated like one.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. SteveSarich says:

    This may be a rude awakening for a TNT writer who hasn’t bothered to do his homework and is drinking the Federal Kool-Aid. Under section 903 of the federal code, it is the states and not the Federal government who have control over controlled substances in the states. It’s also why each state is in charge of the scheduling drugs in their individual states. The fact is that numerous states, including some that don’t have medical marijuana laws, have placed marijuana in a schedule other than Schedule 1.

    That’s also why the states can have medical marijuana laws! Just think about it for a moment, Patrick…it may cause you to at least think for a moment about what you’re writing and calling “news”.

    Governor Gregoire is lying through her teeth. Under most circumstances, this would be considered a pretty brash statement. Frankly, if she wasn’t an attorney, and the former Attorney General of the State of Washington, it might very well be. The fact is that she was the Attorney General of a state that has had a medical marijuana law for over a decade and has had to grapple with state verses federal law issues on numerous occasions. She can hardly claim ignorance of the federal statutes.

    As reported by the Seattle Times, the Governor stated “In light of the Department of Justice’s guidance, it is clear that I cannot sign a bill that authorizes our state employees to license marijuana dispensaries when the department would prosecute those involved.”

    Hear is the applicable section of the Federal law that provides clear protections from prosecution of any duly authorized state employees in Washington. Section (d) clearly spells out these protections.

    21 U.S.C 885 d.
    885. Burden of proof; liabilities.
    (a) Exemptions and exceptions; presumption in simple possession offenses.
    (b) Registration and order forms.
    (c) Use of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.
    (d) Immunity of Federal, State, local and other officials
    Except as provided in sections 2234 and 2235 of title 18, no civil or
    criminal liability shall be imposed by virtue of this subchapter upon any
    duly authorized Federal officer lawfully engaged in the enforcement of this
    subchapter, or upon any duly authorized officer of any State, territory,
    political subdivision thereof, the District of Columbia, or any possession
    of the United States, who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of
    any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances.

    By having a Washington State law which “duly authorizes” state employees to
    engage in handling controlled substances, we can create legal immunities from the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

    Let’s all just face the truth; Governor Gregoire just refuses to reform the state medical marijuana law. Governor Gregoire regularly opines about the fact that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. The truth is that she, the legislature and the Attorney General of Washington have the power to change that. This is a fact that she fails to mention in the hundreds of speeches she’s give in the subject. Washington State not only has the power, and duty, to reschedule medical marijuana Washington, but this state has the power to force the Federal government to do the same. Marijuana could finally be treated as a prescription drug throughout the country. She just refuses to do the right thing.

    It’s time that the TNT writers start doing just a little research before they just regurgitate whatever ridiculous garbage that comes out of the Governor’s office.

  2. publicbulldog says:

    Mr.Callahn,like many other like him cannot point to specific cases of abuse,he like others just bad mouth the clinics and dispensaies.Of course having dealt with Callahan on the issue of exposing Tacoma’s multi jurisdictional drug task force TNET I can assure the readers here that Mr.Callahn will never post the truth about Pierce County law enforcements abuses of the law.

    Abuses like impersonating federal agents without being empowered by the U.S.Attorneys office,or West Net commiting a felony in the club 420 raid and being forced to dismiss the charges.Nor will Mr.Callahan show the publicTNETS policy meeting when they declared they were going to seize medical marijuana no matter what the state law said.No Mr.Calahan wouldn’t report on those issues because the law enforcement in Tacoma would black list him and shun him.

    As I have mentioned TNET abuses the mmj law at will and has done so for years.I have assembled a contract trial of abuse that deserves to be shown to the pierce county residents to see how their own law enforcement is using their tax dollars,but this low class famility media gradunza will not expose TNET’s improprieties.They want to keep getting a slap on the back from the most crooked law enforcement agencies in Washington State.

    Earlier this year Senator Kline introduced an infiltration bill which Pastor and the other members of Tacoma law enforcement protested with a huge showing of Pierce county law enforcement.It seems they enjoy the gray areas just as much if not more than the pot clubs and dispensaries.Like when they infilttrated the Olympia Protest group.

    In short Tacoma and Pierce county suck.Their law enforcement is as corrupt as their elections process.Of course Callahan won’t like to talk about how Pierce County was caught changing votes ether,but he will be more than happy to carry the torch for those corrupt law enforcement agencies that should be in jail for impersonating a federal officer or charged with felonies for lying about their medical conditions or removed from service for malfeasance of the medical marijuana law.

    The news tribune serves their corrupt law enforcement well and helps to keep them squeeky clean and above the muck while they have the audacity to sling muck on the medical marijuana community that has been harrassed at length by the Pierce County law enforcement agencies that have never complied with the MMJ law.

    In my case they impersonated federal agents,tried to blame the feds ,hid the records for 4 years ,and were caught in a lie.It is clear that anything goes for Pierce County law enforcement,.It is also claer that anything they do will not be exposed to the public by this second class rag.

  3. TtownMatt says:

    Well at least you enough balls to put your name on this piece instead of hiding behind the “editorial staff” nomiker as usual. I have lived in Tacoma for 40 years and my mother taught me to read on The News Tribune. No writer has ever offended me as much as you have over the last couple years. Your biased opinion on medical marijuana seems like a personal vandetta you have to wage. We (MMJ patients) are real people, we are the community you are writing to. Do you have no compassion? So our Gov. took the easy way out and blamed it on the feds. We lose this one, bummer. Is it over? Hell no. Patrick, you try to be sympathetic by balancing your piece with a last paragraph balancing act but its time to represent your community, or please leave and take that job at FOX news.

  4. FUKtheGOV says:

    All I can say, cause Steve and PBD said it for me… Nothing else to say except, hows about arresting the two top federal criminals in this state, GREGOIRE and MCKENNA.

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