Crackdown, Legal Confusion, Pushes Pot Sales Underground

The state’s lack of uniform regulation on the medical marijuana industry, combined with a federal crackdown on dispensaries throughout California has certainly had an impact, though not the one authorities likely intended. hemp.jpg

Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that more and more, dispensary operators are moving their sales underground, though some identify themselves as “mobile dispensaries.”

It’s not a move we can necessarily condone, as it may or may not be illegal even under the parameters of state law. But it is understandable, given the confusion over what the law actually is and the desperation that this lack of definition has created among patients and providers alike.

The Los Angeles Times recently profiled one such man who has worked the full spectrum of the industry: From an underground pot dealer in high school and college, to a full-time mortgage broker who had nothing to do with the industry to a registered, above-board dispensary, to now facing federal criminal charges and facilitating sales underground.

He says he tried to do it the right way. He was identified in the story only as “Ricky.” He said he tried to do it the right way. Although he never understood why marijuana was illegal while alcohol was not, he supported statewide regulation. But that never really happened. He now believes he set himself up for legal troubles by properly registering and following all local ordinances. He says its safer not to leave a paper trail.

That’s why, despite even now facing criminal charges, he has shifted his operations underground, growing a supply in his apartment and importing it from international dealers. Still, he does maintain standards, selling only to those who carry a legitimate prescription for the drug. He hopes this will work in his favor if he’s ever arrested again.

He believes in the drug and its medicinal value. That’s why he won’t stop.

But here’s the problem with “Ricky’s” theories: While understandable, they’re ill-informed. It is true that even as the Los Angeles City Council has backed off of its ban on dispensaries for now, federal prosecutors are continuing to crackdown. This means that dispensaries that remain open are, unfortunately, at some risk. But drawing up your own set of rules isn’t likely to stand up in a court of law if you are arrested for trafficking marijuana.

And here’s the reality:

Under federal law, marijuana is considered a Schedule I narcotic. As such, you’re facing anywhere from a few years to life in prison, depending on the amount you possess and the value of it.

So it’s honestly not worth taking the risk unless you can do so under the close advisement of an experienced Los Angeles marijuana attorney.

Many people who were conducting marijuana sales prior to the medicinal legalization were proud and relieved to be able to do it legally. It’s a shame that the issue has become so entrenched politically when it’s not about that – it’s about patient’s rights.

It is possible to run a successful dispensary and to avoid criminal penalties, but it’s important that you team up with someone who is familiar with the ever-evolving legal landscape.

Otherwise, it’s simply not worth the risk.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Medical pot returning to underground, Sept. 6, 2012, By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
More Blog Entries:
L.A. Marijuana Ban is Formally Suspended, Sept. 6, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog