Although some federal officials claim to have eased their stance on medical marijuana in states where it is legal, the opposition of federal law enforcement authorities continues unabated.
Back in 2011, federal authorities swept through Montana medical marijuana clinics, seizing cash, computers, phones and, of course, plants. 14 Medical marijuana providers and associations sued, presenting the case as a “states rights” issue, arguing that the raids violated the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 9th Circuit wasn’t impressed.
Now that Montana’s “legal” medical marijuana market has rebounded, some Montana medical marijuana providers are calling for increased state regulation to help avoid another major federal crackdown.
While some providers work hard to be transparent, documenting even the minutiae of their marijuana growing process, the old timers are starting to fear that new “providers” will not be so careful or will create a circus-like atmosphere of advertising like the free-wheeling days before the feds got involved.
“If too many dispensaries pop up and they have flashy advertising and billboards it’s going to polarize people,” said Paul, a provider in Kalispell.
Although some political parties often claim that regulation is bad for business and seek to de-regulate industry at every turn, the truth is somewhat more complicated: regulation makes it clear for businesses what rules apply and what constitutes an unfair or illegal practice.
In California, for example, medical marijuana laws do not actually offer the protections that many advocates thought they were getting because, although the law appears to contemplate the existence of dispensaries and the sale of medical marijuana to patients, cops and prosecutors have seized on the absence of clarity and actual regulation to support continued and aggressive prosecution of dispensary operators. Worse, although California’s state law appears to permit it, whether a dispensary operator is subject to arrest and prosecution depends mostly on which way the political winds are blowing in a particular county.
But federal officials acknowledge that the lack of regulatory oversight also increases the likelihood of federal involvement. According to DOJ’s Number 2 Prosecutor:
“If you don’t want us prosecuting [marijuana users] in your state, then get your regulatory act together,” he said. Cole added that California must do a better job of stopping marijuana growth on federal lands.