High Times Cannabis Cup Truely is the trade show for an industry.
Uraguayan President Says Colorado Has It Wrong
By Noelle Crombie
Uruguay is hailed by marijuana advocates as a leader in pot policy, but a close look at details shows President Jose Mujica’s plan is more restrictive than Colorado’s approach to legal marijuana, AP reports.
Associated Press reporter Leonardo Haberkorn takes a look at the rules for marijuana sales in Uruguay. The rules go into effect Tuesday. Marijuana, under the new system, is expected to sell for less than a $1 a gram.
The state will sell five different strains, containing a maximum level of 15 percent THC, the substance that gets consumers high. Each bag will be bar-coded, radio-frequency tagged, and registered in a genetic database that will enable authorities to trace its origin and determine its legality, Canepa said. The rules limit licensed growers to six plants per household — not per person, as some pot enthusiasts had hoped. And while people who buy in pharmacies will be identified by fingerprint readers to preserve their anonymity, every user’s pot consumption will be tracked in a government database.
Mujica predicted that many will call him an elderly reactionary once they see this fine print, but he says his government never intended to create a mecca for marijuana lovers.
“No addiction is good,” he said. “We aren’t going to promote smokefests, bohemianism, all this stuff they try to pass off as innocuous when it isn’t. They’ll label us elderly reactionaries. But this isn’t a policy that seeks to expand marijuana consumption. What it aims to do is keep it all within reason, and not allow it to become an illness.”
Colorado Approves Banking System for Marijuana Industry
by Kristen Wyatt (AP)
Colorado lawmakers approved the world’s first financial system for the marijuana industry Wednesday, a network of uninsured cooperatives designed to give pot businesses a way to access basic banking services.
The plan seeks to move the marijuana industry away from its cash-only roots. Banks routinely reject pot businesses for even basic services such as checking accounts because they fear running afoul of federal law, which considers marijuana and its proceeds illegal.
The result: Pot shop owners deal in large amounts of cash, which makes them targets for criminals. Or they try to find ways around the problem, like drenching their proceeds in air freshener to remove the stink of marijuana and try to fool traditional banks into accepting their money.
“This is our main problem: Financial services for marijuana businesses,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial. “We are trying to improvise and come up with something in Colorado to give marijuana business some opportunity, so they do not have to store large amounts of cash.”
Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales, which started Jan. 1. Washington state will follow suit, with retail sales expect to start in July.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. With the industry emerging from the underground, states want to track marijuana sales and collect taxes. It’s a lot easier to do that when the businesses have bank accounts.
But most banks have shrugged at the Treasury guidelines, calling them too onerous to accept marijuana-related clients. The result is a marijuana industry that still relies largely on cash, a safety risk for operators and a concern for Colorado’s pot regulators.
“This is not something that we can wait for any further,” said another banking sponsor, Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.
The bill approved Wednesday would allow marijuana businesses to pool money in cooperative s, but the co-ops would on take effect if the U.S. Federal Reserve agrees to allow them to do things like accept credit cards or checks.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the pot bank plan and is expected to sign it into law, though a spokesman said Wednesday the governor had yet to review the final language.
Lawmakers from both parties supported the banking co-ops as a way to properly audit marijuana shops and to make sure they’re paying all their taxes. Dispensary owners came to the Capitol this session to tell of their difficulties paying taxes and utilities in cash and the dangers of dealing in cash.
“It is very easy to see somebody get killed over this issue,” Marijuana Industry Group Director Michael Elliott testified last month.
The plan had bipartisan support, though some Republicans said that the effort won’t pass federal muster.
A few banks are accepting marijuana clients in light of the federal regulations.
Numerica Credit Union in eastern Washington state is accepting limited business from marijuana growers and processors, The Spokesman-Review reported Wednesday.
Colorado pot shop owners say a small number of credit unions will do business with them, too, though no banks or credit unions have said so publicly.
Countries that don’t ban marijuana don’t have banking systems unique to the drug.
Genius Girl Scout Sets Up Cookie Stand Next to Pot Shop
This is the true essence of entrepreneurship! If there is marijuana4sale, bring cookies.
Ski Resorts Don’t Embrace Recreational Marijuana Due to 1970’s Law Banning Intoxicated Skiing
Colorado Retail Pot Shops Open for Business Jan.1, 2014
Colorado Retail Pot Shops Open for Business Jan.1, 2014
Marijuana Retailers opened for business on New Year’s Day in Denver, Colorado. 14 stores were granted the $5000/year license. Timothy Cullen, one of the first Marijuana Retailers, applied for his license on October 23, 2013. His license number, 402R-00078, was granted to Evergreen Apothecary LLC located at 1568 S. Broadway, Denver, Co. One store, Medicine Man, is now open for business and recently hired 25 new employees. They expect sales to at least double this year. One of the popular strains of marijuana for sale at $280/ounce is “San Fernando Valley OG Kush”. Medicine Man grows all their own marijuana and is required to attach a RFID (Radio Frequency I.D.) tag to each plant as a means of inventory control.
President of California Dispensary Chain Held in Federal Custody for Supposed Drug Trafficking
Jimmy Kimmel Addresses Legalization of Pot at White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2012
5 arrested for dumping garbage bag of pot in Civic Center and passing it out, police say
5 arrested for dumping garbage bag of pot in Civic Center and passing it out, police say
The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_20181528/5-arrested-dumping-garbage-bag-pot-civic-center#ixzz1pmiqRrDZ
Denver Police officers arrested five people in Civic Center this afternoon, after a garbage bag full of marijuana was allegedly dumped out, re-bagged and passed out to park patrons.
Around 12:30 p.m., officers were called to the park, near where Occupy Denver typically holds demonstrations and marches, after they received reports of the marijuana, said Sonny Jackson, a spokesman for the Denver Police Department.
The bag was dumped on a blue tarp in the northeast corner of the park, police said. About 30 people were in the park when the marijuana a was being distributed.
“Why they were doing this we don’t know,” Jackson said. “This is a public park and we cannot have people openly distributing marijuana.”
It did not appear that anyone was paying for the marijuana.
Officers on bikes, motorcycles and on foot responded to the scene.
Several people in the park recorded the incident on cell phones and video cameras as officers loaded the bag into a car.
As officers cleared the park, one woman called the cops “pigs” and “terrorists.”
It is unknown if any of the people taken into custody have been arrested at the park before. Their names have not been released.
Colorado’s Legalized Marijuana Initiative has 15 Days to Collect Approximately 2500 Valid Signatures
Colorado pot-legalization initiative needs more signatures
Posted: 02/03/2012 07:34:43 AM MST
Updated: 02/03/2012 02:15:16 PM MST By John Ingold
The Denver Post
A proposed initiative to legalize limited possession of marijuana in Colorado needs more signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced today that the campaign collected only 83,696 valid signatures. It needs 86,105 to qualify.
The campaign will now have 15 days to collect the remaining 2,409 valid signatures. Mason Tvert, one of the initiative’s proponents, said in a statement today that the announcement was unexpected but “just a very small bump in the road.”
“We are confident we will complete this process successfully and qualify the initiative for the ballot,” Tvert said.
Last month, the campaign turned in more than 160,000 signatures in boxes of petitions. But, after reviewing a sample of those signatures, the Secretary of State’s office could not conclusively project whether there were enough valid signatures on the petitions for the initiative to qualify.
That meant the Secretary of State’s office needed to go line-by-line through the petitions, verifying each signature. Today was the deadline to complete that task.
The initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older. It would also allow people to grow a small number of marijuana plants in their homes.
The measure would also allow for people to open marijuana retail shops, but it would give communities the ability to ban those businesses. Lastly, it would legalize the growing of industrial hemp.
All such activities would remain illegal under federal law.
The initiative — for now known as Proposed Initiative No. 30 and dubbed by the campaign The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 — is one of three separate proposed measures for the 2012 ballot that would legalize marijuana in Colorado.
Another, from Cannabis University of Colorado head Michelle LaMay, would prohibit judges from imposing penalties on anyone for marijuana possession of any amount. Supporters call the initiative The Relief for the Possession of Cannabis Act. The campaign behind it has announced it will begin collecting signatures this month.
Meanwhile, a third initiative was filed Thursday. That measure, which supporters call Legalize 2012, would create in Colorado’s constitution a fundamental right to use and possess any amount of marijuana for people over 18. It would allow for retail sales of marijuana “without restrictions that are onerous or burdensome.” It would require the state attorney general to file lawsuits to prevent the federal government from enforcing federal marijuana laws in Colorado. And it would create a state-funded commission that could help Colorado citizens facing federal marijuana prosecution with their defense.
That initiative has not yet had its first administrative hearing.
Read more: Colorado pot-legalization initiative needs more signatures – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19885405#ixzz1liVKPtHX
Chicago Bears Football (NFL) Player Arrested for Felony Drug Charges
Feds Target Financial Institutions Associated with Medical Marijuana Clinics
Feds Target Financial Institutions Associated with Medical Marijuana Clinics
By SUSANNA KIM
Oct. 26, 2011
In its effort to shut down California’s booming medical marijuana dispensaries, the Justice Department is seeking to seize the property where the clinics are based, even going after at least one bank that holds the mortgage on a clinic.
Chase bank received a letter to evict the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, according to Greg Anton, attorney for the clinic. The bank owns the note on the building in Fairfax, Calif.
According to Anton, the bank received a similar letter from U.S. attorney Melinda Haag for the northern district of California that was sent to the Alliance’s landlord on Sept. 28 and other medical marijuana dispensaries. The letters threatened that unless the owners evicted the cannabis clinics within 45 days, they could face criminal action.
Anton said he obtained a copy of the letter to JPMorgan Chase through the clinic’s landlord, as reported by the Bay Citizen.
A spokesman for JP Morgan Chase said he had no comment and would not confirm whether the bank received a letter from the U.S. attorney.
The Justice Department announced on Oct. 7 it is cracking down on the illegal distribution of marijuana in four federal districts in California, which has had a growing cannabis industry since legalizing medicinal marijuana in 1996 through Proposition 215.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in the state’s Northern district said he could not comment on who received letters.
The U.S. attorneys for Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego revealed enforcement actions against at least 16 cannabis distributors in those federal districts. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the department will not focus the investigation on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers.
Lynnette Shaw, owner of the Marian Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which calls itself the oldest medical marijuana dispensary in the state, said her landlord is planning to evict the business from the premises, though Shaw is hoping to obtain a court order or even an executive order that would bring a temporary stay on the U.S. Attorneys’ actions.
Shaw said she has obeyed all state laws for 15 years and never diverted medicine for non-medical purposes or sold out of state.
But she and her landlord, who she has been supportive since the time the clinic launched, are fearful of the Justice Department’s threats.
“My landlord is terrified, I would never do anything to endanger him,” Shaw said. “Now he’s asked us to remove marijuana from premises.”
On Tuesday, state and local legislators gathered with clinic owners in San Francisco prior to President Obama’s fundraiser event, calling on the president to intervene.
“This destructive attack on medical marijuana patients is a waste of limited law enforcement resources and will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives,” California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said. “President Obama needs to reverse this bad policy decision and respect California’s right to provide medicine to its residents.”
Aaron Smith, executive director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said, “President Obama needs to immediately reign in the Justice Department for defying his administration’s stated policy to respect state medical marijuana laws.”
The Justice Department’s action places into question marijuana-related activities in 15 other states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized medicinal marijuana in some form.
Kevin Sabet, former Senior Policy Advisor to President Obama’s Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, and currently a consultant to drug prevention and policy organizations, said financial institutions that deal with medical marijuana organizations should be on alert.
“Smoked marijuana remains illegal in all states, and federal law — while recognizing certain components of marijuana as having medicinal value — does not allow the whole marijuana plant to be smoked for any purpose, including purported medical purposes,” he said.
Sabet also warned that all states with legalized medical marijuana should pay attention to the enforcement actions in California.
“Remember, all actions have to be approved by Attorney General Holder, so it’s hard to imagine that California would be the only place the Department of Justice is focusing on,” Sabet said.
While dispensaries outside California have not received similar letters from the Justice Department, some have been audited by the IRS for taking business deductions that were related to “trafficking in controlled substances.” The IRS can penalize cannabis dispensaries based on section 280E of the tax code, passed during the Reagan administration in 1982, which prohibited drug dealers to take any deductions based on trafficking activities.
Jill Lamoureux, chairwoman of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said she knew of one audit in Colorado, the details of which are confidential. She said the deductions were accepted an no additional taxes or fines were assessed.
“If the IRS determines across the board that this industry cannot take standard business deductions it will severely limit the ability of these businesses to thrive serving patients and contributing to our state’s economies desperately in need of new growth industries,” Lamoureux wrote in an email to ABC News.
Sabet said the federal government is sending a message that the “rush” in the medical marijuana industry is “over.”
“People – including drug dealing organizations – flocked to the promise land of California thinking they could get rich off of this grey market, but the federal government is now reminding folks that there’s nothing grey about marijuana markets,” Sabet said. “‘Marijuana is an illegal drug and we take it seriously,’ is the message they seem to be sending.”
Tunnels are Tijuana
Raids Don’t Keep Tunnel City From Humming Underground
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
The authorities on Thursday presented the results of a raid in Tijuana: bricks of marijuana and a smuggling tunnel into California.
By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: December 1, 2011
TIJUANA, Mexico — Squatting and sweating inside the latest drug tunnel found here in this Pacific border city, it was easy to understand the amazement expressed by Mexican and American officials. This one was a stunner.
A motorized cart on metal rails ensured quick passage.
The tunnel ran for almost half a mile, with wooden planks holding off the earth on all sides. Energy-saving light bulbs illuminated the route. A motorized cart on metal rails ensured quick passage, while a steel elevator hidden beneath the floor tiles in a warehouse made the 40-foot descent to the tunnel’s entrance feel like the slow drop into an unregulated mine shaft.
And yet, here is the simple fact obscured by superlatives like “the most elaborate” and “the most sophisticated,” which officials seem to lather on each new find.
Tunnels are Tijuana. They have become an inevitable, always-under-construction or always-operating part of city life, as entrenched as cheap pharmacies and strip clubs.
Residents now shrug them off. “If you have a lot of money, you can do anything,” said Blanca Samaniego, 36, as she walked by the warehouse where Mexican officials unveiled the tunnel on Wednesday. “It will never change. It will never stop.”
The ground beneath her neighborhood in the hills — near the airport and the upgraded, shimmering border fence patrolled 24/7 by American agents — has been punched full of holes for years. Almost every kind of building has been used to hide a logistical operation that is as much about the American taste for a high as it is about the low-down removal of dirt.
Just a few weeks ago, below a more rudimentary warehouse nearby, the authorities found a different tunnel with an elaborate ventilation system. A few blocks from that, there sits an empty flophouse, where thick concrete now caps a passageway discovered by the authorities last year. Farther east, residents note a tunnel found in 2008, and just past the next major intersection, there are two more: one under a small home and the other below a bodega across from a factory.
Other tunnels have been found downtown, near the main border crossing. Wherever there is a border fence climbing high, there seems to have been an attempt to burrow below, usually to a parking lot in California where drugs can be hauled through a manhole cover, or to a business that almost looks legitimate.
In the latest case, the tunnel ran to Hernandez Produce Warehouse, a fruit and vegetable company in California whose only product seemed to be green and best when smoked.
Luis Ituarte, 69, an artist who runs a gallery here called La Casa del Túnel — where a tunnel was found about decade ago — said that Tijuana officials would be smart to move beyond publicizing their subterranean finds and then shutting them down. He argued that Tijuana should capitalize on its historic identity as a city that has been serving up vice since 1907, when President Porfirio Díaz legalized gambling, or 1920, when the United States made alcohol illegal.
“Las Vegas, Tijuana and Havana were all built by the same kind of people,” Mr. Ituarte said. “Only Vegas has taken on its bad reputation.”
Not that this is the direction things are heading. The mayor here recently rejected demands from cultural groups asking to take over La Ocho, a notorious prison that had been decommissioned.
Mexican Army officials, during a tour of this week’s elaborate tunnel, mostly focused on the triumph of the discovery.
“These are achievements that increase public security,” said Gen. Gilberto Landeros, standing at the tunnel entrance as local reporters took snapshots of one another in front of the long, dim hole. “We’re pounding at the economy of narcotrafficking.”
At the very least, he had a lot of marijuana to point to. Hefty bricks of the stuff, wrapped tightly in orange and green plastic, surrounded him when he announced the discovery of the tunnel inside the empty warehouse here in Tijuana. The total haul, from both sides and a truck driven from the site in San Diego, was 32.4 tons, with a street value of about $65 million — a new record for a tunnel-related seizure, according to American officials.
Harder to see, unmentioned, but easy to imagine: how many tons moved across before that load was found.
The evidence around the tunnel — worn-out soccer cleats, dusty oscillating fans, empty water bottles — suggested that the operation had been going for months, a supposition Mexican officials did not deny. At that rate, hundreds of tons of marijuana worth hundreds of millions of dollars would have moved through this one tunnel during its life span.
Most likely somewhere nearby, in another tunnel, the flow continues. The next announcement and news tour may be only weeks away.
Sexy Pot Ads Question Medical Marijuana Goals
Sexy pot ads provoke debate over medical marijuana goals
By Peter Hecht
Published: Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 – 6:58 am
In 2009, as Los Angeles’ booming medical marijuana economy inspired an emerald city of weed, Vanessa Sahagun found a business opportunity as “Chacha Vavoom,” maven of the 420 Nurses.
Chacha and her “nurses” became a pot culture phenomenon. They savored bong hits on YouTube, modeled skimpy outfits to promote marijuana dispensaries – and stirred young men at medical pot shows teeming with sexual imagery.
“I was proud I was opening up a market creating ‘green jobs’ for these ladies,” said Sahagun, 25.
But now, the sexual marketing of medical marijuana – with racy promotions that often trump the beer industry’s swimsuit models – is at the center of an uncomfortable debate in the medicinal cannabis community.
Fifteen years after California voters legalized use of medical marijuana amid images of ailing AIDS and cancer patients, pot dispensaries featuring “bikini budtenders” suggest a different message: pot as a recreational pleasure.
“I’ve often said how offensive it is that we have naked girls with cannabis leaves or mini-mini-mini-skirts,” said Lanette Davies, a Sacramento dispensary operator who condemns others in the industry for marketing sex. “That has nothing to do with medication.”
Davies, whose family runs the Canna Care dispensary, said some in the industry “believe there is more money” marketing to recreational marijuana users. “That’s not what people voted in. That’s not why we’re supposed to be here,” she said.
Ryan Landers, a Sacramento AIDS patient who leads a medical marijuana policy group called “the Compassionate Coalition,” said trade shows featuring “Hot Kush Girl” contests and spicy ads “make my job a hell of a lot harder to convince people what we’re doing is true and real.”
Most medical marijuana dispensaries refrain from suggestive advertising – and some even feature multiple sclerosis patients or car accident victims who use cannabis for chronic pain.
But the California Organic Collective dispensary in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley touts bikini-clad counter attendants in ads that depict a buxom nurse holding a red, nipple-shaped stethoscope to her breast.
The Reserve dispensary in Sacramento County employed a model in a metal-studded brassiere and Old West gun belt to promote a super-potent “Green Ribbon” strain packing 25 percent of marijuana’s psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
“They claim to be offering medicine, yet they’re using marketing techniques reminiscent of some of the lowest standards of the beer industry,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers Association.
At the “HempCon” medical marijuana trade show this month in San Jose, the event’s own marketing director took exception when she passed a booth for a magazine called Cali Chronic X. It featured seminude models posing suggestively with pot and exotic smoking accessories.
“I don’t know why we have to mix marijuana with porn,” protested Shawna Webb, a communications professional who uses medical cannabis for pain from a ruptured disk.
Webb said sex is the wrong image for the industry, particularly as California’s four U.S. attorneys are targeting pot dispensaries for prosecution and threatening their landlords with property seizures under federal drug laws.
But Jeffrey Peterson, publisher of Cali Chronic X and a performer known as “the 420 comic,” said he is making a stand against what he sees as prudish advocates who deny pot’s popularity as a recreational drug.
“How dare do these people, who think they represent the cannabis culture, single out the edge of this culture – because we are the cannabis culture,” he said.
Near Peterson at the San Jose trade show, Leslie Henck, a Bay Area go-go dancer, wore a bikini as the spokesmodel for a company selling joint-rolling machines. “You don’t have to look unhealthy to need medical marijuana,” said Henck, 19, who says her recommendation for pot helped her deal with anxiety.
“Sativa Grace,” a model for Cali Chronic X, came to the show dressed as a tawdry Alice in Wonderland. Sativa’s real name is Andrea Frye. The 21-year-old, who works in an adult novelties store, said she is empowering women.
“Hey, I may have sex appeal,” she said, “but I can smoke all day like a guy.”
Sahagun, a.k.a. Chacha Vavoom, started 420 Nurses as Los Angeles lit up with neon marijuana leaves from hundreds of new dispensaries. She sold outfits with hot pants sporting green medical marijuana crosses for women seeking pot modeling jobs.
“We went out with our cute uniforms, and I noticed a big response,” Sahagun said. “I knew there was a fire there.”
She said her “nurses” earn $10 to $25 an hour working in dispensaries or passing out business cards for doctors recommending marijuana – or $100 to $1,000 a day for promotional photos and videos.
At the “Kush Expo Medical Marijuana Show” in Anaheim this month, the 420 Nurses were joined by the Ganja Juice girls and a bikini troupe for an Orange County dispensary sponsoring the Expo’s “Hot Kush Girl” contest. A whooping, largely male throng cheered as 21 women competed for signature edition bongs and cash prizes.
“The marijuana industry is male-dominated, and dudes love to look at hot chicks,” said Ngaio Bealum, Sacramento publisher of a marijuana lifestyle magazine called West Coast Cannabis.
Bealum, who bills his publication as the “Sunset magazine of weed,” said he doesn’t run sexually suggestive ads.
And Bic Pho, marketing director for the Yerba Buena Medical Cannabis Club’s six San Jose dispensaries, junked ads with bikini models after deciding they projected a bad image for medical marijuana.
“I just didn’t feel it was appropriate. So we stopped,” he said. Now the dispensaries advertise a damsel, fully clothed, in pirate’s attire.
“We went with a pirate theme,” Pho said, “just something to remember us by.”
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/11/28/4083460/sexy-pot-ads-provoke-debate-over.html#ixzz1f1BeX4rN
California Pot Advocates Take Their Case to Courts
“Medical marijuana advocates take their battle to the courts”
By Peter Hecht
By Peter Hecht The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011 – 12:10 am
Copyright 2011 The Sacramento Bee.
They are the public face of a litigious battle to redefine federal authority on medical marijuana.
With emotion and printed placards – “Marijuana is medicine, Let states regulate!” – about 200 people protested at the U.S. courthouse in Sacramento Wednesday against a federal crackdown on California dispensaries and property owners leasing to medical cannabis businesses.
But the real action may result from five lawsuits filed in recent days against U.S. government officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, California’s four U.S. attorneys and President Barack Obama’s director of national drug control policy.
The suits assert that federal prosecutors are violating equal protection laws and states’ rights, and constitutional protections for in-state commerce. The ultimate goal may be to force the government to negotiate a settlement that spells out what it will tolerate in California and other states permitting medical marijuana use.
“We would like to get a rational dialogue going with the federal government about how to handle medical cannabis in California,” said Matt Kumin, a lead attorney in lawsuits filed in each of the state’s federal judicial districts. The suits seek injunctions to stop the seizure of properties of landlords leasing to medical marijuana operations.
A fifth suit, by the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, seeks to bar federal actions “to dismantle the laws of the state of California.”
Don Heller, a former Sacramento federal prosecutor, said the suits could force a definitive answer by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of federal “supremacy and states rights and who shall prevail with respect to marijuana.”
“It has been nibbled at and now it really should be decided,” he said.
In an announcement last month, U.S. prosecutors broadly asserted that dispensaries in California are profiteering in violation of both federal and state law. They’ve brought charges that some bad actors have trafficked medical marijuana out of state or pocketed millions of dollars from cultivation operations for marijuana stores.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento said in a statement Wednesday that California prosecutors “will continue to enforce federal narcotics laws, unless and until ordered to do otherwise.”
In contrast, marijuana advocates are suing on behalf of people such as Ryan Landers of Sacramento, who uses medical marijuana for symptoms of AIDS, or Briana Bilbray, a cancer patient who uses cannabis and the daughter of San Diego Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray.
The suits also challenge threats to seize properties of landlords who rent to dispensaries, including the El Camino Wellness Center, one of Sacramento’s leading medical marijuana outlets, or the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, California’s longest operating medicinal cannabis provider.
Kumin said plaintiffs want to know why the federal government has taken little action in Colorado, which permits a heavily regulated, for-profit medical marijuana industry, while launching aggressive actions in California.
The government’s stance is that all marijuana – medical or otherwise – is illegal under federal law. But Kumin said the Colorado model suggests California may be able to negotiate standards for medical marijuana distribution that would ward off federal intervention.
Santa Clara Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen said a U.S. Supreme Court battle is unlikely to produce positive results for the medical marijuana movement.
Uelmen unsuccessfully argued a 2001 case for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club, in which the Supreme Court ruled no “medical necessity” exempts marijuana from federal law. In 2004, the court rejected California medical user Angel Raich’s claim that federal marijuana laws intruded on constitutionally protected state commerce.
But Uelman said legal actions may force the government to negotiate with the advocates.
Uelmen represented the Santa Cruz Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in an eight-year battle against federal authorities after a 2002 raid on the pot garden of a colony of severely or terminally ill patients. It resulted in a 2004 ruling permitting the group to grow marijuana and a 2010 agreement to drop the suit on the condition the government would no longer raid the garden.
Uelmen said authorities may be less accommodating for dispensaries the government views “as a ploy to run commercial operations to sell marijuana.”
In a parallel effort to the lawsuits, advocates are drafting a ballot initiative for statewide regulation of California’s medical marijuana industry, hoping it may diminish incentives for federal intervention.
California Board of Equalization member Betty Yee joined courthouse protesters Wednesday, decrying federal actions against dispensaries that she described as “responsible corporate citizens who pay state sales taxes.”
Kumin said he hopes the lawsuits can “enshrine” support for medical marijuana in California into federal law or policy. “We believe there are judges out there who are brave and ready to look at the utter contradictions,” he said.