California Cannabis: Escape From L.A.

In an unfortunate but inevitable turn of events the DEA raided two medical marijuana dispensaries in  Los Angeles that appear to have complied with state and local laws and paid their taxes. We see these two federal government raids as the federal government making clear its unhappiness with California’s failing (yet again) to enact statewide regulation over marijuana businesses. Los Angeles has not done its marijuana business community any favors by constantly changing its mind about its marijuana regulations (its most recent flavor being Proposition D) and by failing to consistently enforce its existing regulations.

These raids come on the heels of former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issuing an explicit warning to California to regulate its marijuana industry. As Cole bluntly put it: “If you [California] don’t want us prosecuting [marijuana users] in your state, then get your regulatory act together.” Looks like Cole meant what he said and, apparently, local regulation of California’s medical marijuana industry is not going to cut it.

Indeed, even if local laws (as opposed to the statewide regulation the federal government has consistently requested) could somehow satisfy the Cole memo, Proposition D would still not cut it.

We say this because Proposition D does not regulate dispensaries and marijuana businesses to the extent the federal government demands. Instead, it is a zoning and city registration measure meant to control the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles, not a measure that would lead to real oversight of how these businesses operate. As such, it flies in the face of the Cole memo and serves only to promote gray market activity. The federal government wants to see regulations that help prevent youth access to cannabis, reduce crime, and ensure cannabis safety.

California needs real statewide marijuana regulation by 2016 and before then, industry participants and marijuana business owners should be lobbying for strict regulation in their communities if they want to hold the Feds at bay. In the meantime, rest assured that the Feds are not done with hassling California dispensaries.

For more on California marijuana laws, check out the following: