Los Angeles politicians have struggled for more than five years to regulate medical marijuana, trying to balance the needs of the sick against neighborhood concerns that pot shops attract crime. Voters will head to the polls to decide how Los Angeles should handle its high with three competing measures that seek to either limit the number of dispensaries or allow new ones to open and join an estimated several hundred others that currently operate.
The Drug Enforcement Administration sent cease-and-desist letters to 11 medical-marijuana dispensaries because they are within 1,000 feet of schools or other prohibited areas. The DEA maintains that the crackdown does not signal a federal war on Washington state’s new legal-pot law. Despite Washington state’s new legal recreational-pot law, enacted by voter-approved Initiative 502, all forms of marijuana remain illegal under federal law.
A bill introduced in Congress would fix the conflict between the federal government’s marijuana prohibition and state laws that allow medical or recreational use. California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said his bill, H.R. 1523, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, which has three Republican and three Democratic sponsors, would assure that state laws on pot are respected by the feds. The measure would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that individuals and businesses, including marijuana dispensaries, who comply with state marijuana laws are immune from federal prosecution.
Looking at the recent spread of liberalized marijuana laws across the United States, it's hard not to think we're entering some kind of Weed Spring. The latest state to act is Maryland, where on Monday the state senate approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana by 42 to 4, sending it to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it into law. Several state legislatures are considering relaxing their restrictions on marijuana. A majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, and 65 percent of young people support legalizing it.
A number of businesses in the burgeoning U.S. cannabis industry are trying to enlist Wall Street's help. Some entrepreneurs see marijuana heading down the same path as Prohibition, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol from 1920 until it was repealed in 1933. "More and more people see the inevitability," said Brendan Kennedy, chief executive of the Seattle private equity firm Privateer Holdings, which targets cannabis-focused start-ups. "They see that the Berlin Wall of cannabis prohibition is going to come down."
A U.S. magistrate judge on Thursday sided with federal prosecutors in dismissing a lawsuit by the city of Oakland that challenged as illegal federal attempts to shutter the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary. In filing the suit last October, Oakland became the first city to take on federal enforcement actions that have led to the closure of hundreds of dispensaries in recent years.
The California Supreme Court appeared inclined to uphold municipal bans against medical marijuana dispensaries. Meeting for oral arguments, the state high court considered the legality of a ban on dispensaries by the city of Riverside. Several justices noted that the state Constitution gives cities wide policing power over land use and suggested that the state's medical marijuana laws have not undercut that authority. (See also: Marijuana dispensary curbs likely to stand)
A pro-marijuana group lost its legal battle when a federal appellate court ruled that marijuana would remain a Schedule I drug, defined as having no accepted medical value and a high potential for abuse. For years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute for Drug Abuse have made it all but impossible to develop a robust body of research on the medical uses of marijuana. For a muscular agency that combats vicious drug criminals, the DEA acts like a terrified and obstinate toddler when it comes to basic science.
Marijuana will continue to be considered a highly dangerous drug under federal law with no accepted medical uses, after a U.S. appeals court refused to order a change in the government's 40-year-old drug classification schedule. The decision keeps in place an odd legal split over marijuana, a drug deemed to be as dangerous as heroin and worse than methamphetamine by federal authorities, but one that has been legalized for medical use by voters or legislators in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
In a case that highlights the growing clash between the federal government and those states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, the United States Justice Department indicted Matthew R. Davies six months ago on charges of cultivating marijuana, after raiding two dispensaries and a warehouse filled with nearly 2,000 marijuana plants. The case illustrates the struggle states and the federal government are now facing as they seek to deal with the changing contours of marijuana laws and public attitudes toward the drug.
A federal magistrate judge ruled that a medical-marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest can continue to operate, at least for now, in Oakland and San Jose despite a bid by federal prosecutors to shut it down. The ruling marks the latest move in a tug-of-war between local and federal authorities over medical marijuana dispensaries. The judge ruled that the government, not the landlords, must move to evict Harborside for its alleged violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. (See als: Landlord can’t shut down nation’s largest pot shop, judge says)
Vigorous regulation of a thriving medical-marijuana industry in Colorado offers the best glimpse of what is coming to Washington when it launches its voter-approved social-use market. With continuous surveillance, bar-coded plants and strict financial background checks, Colorado's rules allowed capitalism to be unleased, creating an instant $200 million industry. With retail prices — averagingabout $7.50 a gram — among the cheapest in the country.