California Medical Marijuana: Different Fed Response, Regulation Than Colorado

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported there are vast differences between how regulated the medical marijuana industry is in California compared to Colorado and how the federal response has varied.

Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives have come under pressure not only from federal prosecutors, who try to enforce conflicting federal and state laws, but also city leaders, who are caught in the middle.
Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers have been able to represent users, growers, collectives and dispensaries who have had legal problems both from the federal government and local governments, each overstepping their bounds on this issue. As the conflicts are being played out in court, these medical marijuana supporters still have rights and can’t be treated poorly simply because things are in a strange spot.

According to the news article, Colorado medical marijuana leaders are confident that even in a perilous time where federal prosecutors are threatening civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution, their industry will thrive. Meanwhile, in California, cities and counties are split on how to regulate the industry and federal authorities are bringing pressure because state laws conflict with federal law.

In January, the U.S. attorney in Colorado sent letters to 23 of the 600 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, telling them to relocate or close down if they were operating within 1,000 feet of a school.

But in California, federal authorities have threatened legal action to many medical marijuana businesses, including IRS action for not paying back taxes, forfeiture and other methods. Not only have businesses been threatened, but also landlords who offer the office space to these businesses.

In Colorado, dispensaries are forced to grow 70 percent of their marijuana on-site. Further, counties and cities can ban dispensaries, if they so choose. State auditors monitor business transactions and background checks to trash disposal is covered in a 77-page regulation manual.

The state also created a division of plainclothes law enforcement officers equipped with badges and guns to carry out on-site inspections — sometimes scheduled and other times surprise — to ensure that businesses are operating as they should. They also respond to complaints and investigate suspicious activity.

The problem with California’s setup is that only cities and counties regulate the industry beyond the state’s Department of Public Health, by issuing medical marijuana identification cards to patients and caregivers. Detractors say the lack of regulation is why illegal operations are creeping in and profiting off the law.

This is why Los Angeles medical marijuana officials are making an effort to create a ballot initiative that would create a regulatory board run by the state. Industry officials want regulation because it will help to stop detractors and city leaders, who aren’t sure how to properly deal with the industry. Hopefully, these continued efforts will help California’s medical marijuana users and businesses to keep striving even in a difficult time.

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Los Angeles, throughout Orange County and elsewhere throughout Southern California. Call 949-375-4734 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

From California to Colorado, Feds Move in and Try to Disrupt Medical Marijuana Industry: January 18, 2012
Additional Resources:

Feds’ pot response differs in California, Colorado, by Dan Freedman, The San Francisco Chronicle

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