Thursday, October 15, 2009
LA District Attorney Starts War on Medical Marijuana
Why is L.A.'s district attorney helping Mexican drug cartels?
By Bruce Mirken
Updated: 10/13/2009 05:02:07 PM PDT
LAST Thursday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley
announced a sweeping new plan to boost the profits of Mexican drug
cartels, a plan almost certain to increase the slaughter these vicious
gangs are perpetrating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Of course, Cooley didn't call it that. He claimed, on dubious legal
grounds, that all medical marijuana dispensaries in the county are
illegal and announced plans to crack down on them. While no one denies
that L.A.'s attempts - or, more accurately, nonattempts - to regulate
these operations have been a mess, Cooley's crackdown is guaranteed to
make a bad situation worse.
While state law is not as precise as it might be in setting legal
parameters for dispensing medical marijuana, guidelines issued last year
by state Attorney General Jerry Brown make clear that dispensing
collectives are legal and can include storefront operations.
"It is the opinion of this Office that a properly organized and operated
collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a
storefront may be lawful under California law," the guidelines state, so
long as other requirements are met.
It may well be that some are operating outside these guidelines, but
until and unless Cooley closely inspects their operations, he is simply
making things up. That's not how law enforcement should operate.
But even if Cooley were right on legal grounds, as policy his stand
borders on the insane.
California law unmistakably gives patients the right to use and possess
marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by their physician. And
a flood of medical research over the last several years - much of it
conducted by the University of California - has confirmed that marijuana
can indeed provide safe, effective relief for a number of conditions,
including certain hard-to-treat types of excruciating nerve pain.
So the question facing local leaders is not whether patients can have
medical marijuana, but how they will obtain it. Will it be from licensed
businesses operating under appropriate rules and regulations, or from
drug dealers on the streets? Does Cooley really believe it's better for
either patients or communities to have the state's medical marijuana
patients - who number more than 200,000 by most estimates - getting
their medicine from street dealers?
Sending patients to the streets for their medicine is clearly dangerous,
subjecting sick people to risky transactions in order to purchase
medicine of unknown quality, purity and origin. But it's the question of
origin that should alarm all of us.
We know that a significant amount of street marijuana can be traced to
the murderous Mexican cartels - vicious gangs who make around two-thirds
of their profits from the illicit marijuana trade, according to U.S. and
Mexican officials. We know that these gangs are operating in at least
230 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Hacienda Heights and Garden
A mass shutdown of medical marijuana dispensaries will simply hand these
thugs a massive new pool of customers and millions of dollars in extra
profits. There is a better way.
The experience of other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco, has
shown that well-crafted regulations can allow medical marijuana patients
to access their medicine safely, from well-run organizations that follow
the law and respect their neighborhoods.
In San Francisco, medical marijuana dispensaries have simply ceased
being controversial, as explained last year by C.W. Nevius, arguably the
San Francisco Chronicle's most conservative local columnist:
"Quietly, with little fanfare, San Francisco is on the way to becoming a
model for medical marijuana clubs done the right way. Exploitative,
profit-hungry drug clubs are being forced out and community-based,
patient-friendly ones are becoming the norm. Neighbors have shut down
dispensaries in school zones, and patient services have been increased."
It's long past time for California's legislature to set clear, statewide
standards and licensing rules for medical marijuana providers. But until
then, local officials like Cooley need to use common sense and not
pursue policies that will simply enrich murderous thugs.
Bruce Mirken is director of communications for the Marijuana Policy
http://www.dailynew s.com/food/ ci_13553659