Fifteen years ago, California approved the medical use of marijuana. For the most part, it's been working well. It provides sick people with their medication of choice, is heavily regulated as to sales, adds to the economy, and is taxed up the wazzooo.
Back then it was seen as a thumb in the eye of the federal government and a blow for State's Right. I was on board with the idea.
Throughout the Bush administration the pot users of California were facing the threat of the justice department which made it's disapproval clear. It was just a matter of time, I assumed, before we would have the showdown.
I thought the bullet had been dodged with the election of the supposedly more progressive Obama administration.
It looks like I was wrong.
Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on some pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law.
There have always been threats, maybe an isolated action here and there, but for the most part medical marijuana has become accepted institution.
"Under United States law, a dispensary's operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions," according to the letters signed by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego. "Real and personal property involved in such operations are subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States ... regardless of the purported purpose of the dispensary."
The move comes a little more than two months after the Obama administration toughened its stand on medical marijuana. For two years before that, federal officials had indicated they would not move aggressively against dispensaries in compliance with laws in the 16 states where pot is legal for people with doctors' recommendations.
Looks like we have a justice department that will sell weapons to Mexican drug smugglers while taking action to remove valid medicine from cancer patients requiring further smuggling and increased profiteering for violent cartels.
Going after property owners is not a new tactic though, Hermes said. Five years ago, the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush made similar threats to about 300 Los Angeles-area landlords who were renting space to medical marijuana outlets, some of whom were eventually evicted or closed their doors voluntarily, he said.(Emphasis mine)
"It did have an impact. However, the federal government never acted on its threats, never prosecuted anybody, never even went to court to begin prosecutions," Hermes said. "By and large, they were empty threats, but they relied on them and the cost of postage to shut down as many facilities as they could without having to engage in criminal enforcement activity."
The one thing that surprises me about the Obama Administration is that it continues to surprise me at all levels.
I guess none of this should surprise me anymore.