October 14, 2011 - As I write these words, I’ve just learned that Matt Cohen, founder of Northstone Organics, has been released from detention by DEA agents; but only after they destroyed his 99 beautiful, carefully tended, fully licensed and legal cannabis plants. Matt is well known in the cannabis community as a pioneer in developing safe and regulated cultivation of cannabis. He was one of the very first to have the courage to enroll in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s licensing program - which intentionally limited cultivation to 99 plants, in an effort to address federal concerns about diversion.
This vicious and mean attack comes on the heels of a double-header assault on another pioneer of licensed and regulated cannabis distribution - Lynette Shaw and the Marin Alliance. First the IRS denied all of her normal and standard business deductions and levied a multi-million dollar tax bill. Then, to add salt to the wound, the DOJ sent a letter to her landlord, threatening to seize the property if the Marin Alliance is not evicted.
Lynette has held a license from the City of Fairfax for over a decade. The Marin Alliance is strictly regulated and has supplied city officials with complete financial records to verify their non-profit operations and compliance. The City has no complaints about their operations, and, in fact, values the Marin Alliance as one of the top ten tax-payers in Fairfax.
These outrageous attacks on two of the industry’s most legitimate and legally compliant leaders puts the lie to recent statements made by California’s US Attorneys, who maintained they would be targeting profiteers and the interstate diversion of medical cannabis. They are not really concerned about the illegal market at all; their true target is the systems of licensing and regulation that have been put into place by cities and counties and states all over America. The purpose of these systems is to prevent the same problems that the Feds are complaining about: profiteering, diversion to the illegal market, proximity to sensitive sites like schools and parks, etc.
In fact, the resurgence of federal pressure on the medical cannabis community began after several states took their cue from the Obama administration’s now broken promise to respect state medical cannabis laws. Arizona, Washington, Rhode Island, and other states responded by passing comprehensive legislation to regulate all phases of the medical cannabis industry, from seed to patient. Every one of these regulatory systems would have effectively addressed the issues the Feds are screaming about - plus generated huge amounts of desperately needed tax revenue.
What are the Feds afraid of? Is it the tens of thousands of well-paying jobs we have created? Or perhaps it is the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue we have generated for cities and states? Maybe it is the laboratory tested medicine that is such an imminent social threat? Or is it really just that they can’t stand the fact that patients can access their medicine from a safe and regulated facility, rather than from criminals on the street?
Steve DeAngelo is the Executive Director of Harborside Health Center, (HarborsideHealthCenter.com)