Amid now-regular assaults by the federal government, the medical marijuana community of not only Southern California, but also the entire country has been hard-pressed to find reason to hope, or to celebrate. And yet, what we must remember is that we are under attack from a frightened enemy that knows its days are numbered.
Of course, victory – the day when the federal government finally admits marijuana is medicine, and stops diverting its resources to stamp out law-abiding qualified patients and collectives and to threaten local and state officials who seek to regulate medical marijuana – will take time, likely years. And we will suffer casualties and losses and endure panic and fear among our community and our state and local governments. But victory for medical marijuana will come – and after that, victory for drug reform will follow.
That inevitability – that someday, we will have a sensible federal drug policy, governing marijuana, medical and recreational – terrifies federal law enforcement. After all, rather than going after peaceful patients and responsible reformers, they will have to focus their time and energy on true villains – and perhaps, have their budgets slashed. Perhaps this is the fear that has made the federal government lash out at medical marijuana – and equally chillingly, at elected officials that have supported us.
In the past few weeks, the medical marijuana community has seen the following attacks from the feds:
Equally chilling, the feds have begun threatening local officials who regulate or seek to regulate medical marijuana. Examples include the following:
Yet, as frightening as these federal assaults and threats are, the medical marijuana community must remember that the feds are lashing out because they feel cornered. Though the feds have convinced many operators to close their storefronts, many of these same operators have switched to delivering cannabis to collective members. In short, they are changing tactics as they wait out the storm.
In addition to changing collective exchange models, operators, qualified patients, and advocates have continued to move forward with promoting the industry and clarifying laws. Several groups are gathering signatures for statewide ballot initiatives, including Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012, and Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. Others are gathering signatures for local ballot initiatives.
Also demonstrating that medical marijuana is an entrenched part of California life and law, the California Supreme Court recently announced it will hear appeals in several medical marijuana cases, including Pack v. City of Long Beach and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center, Inc. In Pack, the Second Appellate District ruled that federal law preempts most of the City of Long Beach’s ordinance that sought to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. Unfortunately, many cities and counties used this ruling as an excuse to pass or maintain bans on storefront dispensaries. For example, the City of Los Angeles has pointed to the ruling as proof that the City must pass its so-called “gentle ban” on dispensaries. Proposed by Councilmember Jose Huizar, the proposed regulation would ban all storefront dispensaries in Los Angeles. In Inland Empire, the Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, ruled that municipalities can ban storefront dispensaries, though the Court also emphasized that municipalities can allow and regulate storefronts as well.
Though we will likely wait between eighteen months and two years for the California Supreme Court to issue opinions in these important cases, the fact that the Court took these cases demonstrates that medical marijuana law in California is alive – and here to stay. The time for victory will come; we just have to remain patient – and wait out the federal government’s terrifying death rattle.