The world’s worst editorial board just barfed all over the internet again. Let’s see if we can tally up the inaccurate statements and complete nonsense in their latest embarrassment.
Washington’s carefully restricted policy on medical marijuana – enacted by voters in 1998 – got along fine for 10 years without attracting much notice from the U.S. Justice Department.
No, it didn’t. In fact, it got along so poorly that most patients struggled to find a reliable source of medicine, patients who tried to grow for themselves often got fucked, and those who tried to provide for others out of a sense of compassion were putting themselves at significant risk. The law was a gesture of compassion by voters that was never followed up with a workable system.
No big mystery. Few people, including federal prosecutors, have any interest in preventing seriously ill people from using the drug when recommended by their doctors after other treatments have failed.
They may not have any interest in preventing them from using it, but they have shown a lot of interest in trying to prevent them from obtaining it in a safe and secure way. And that’s been the issue with the law all along.
But would-be marijuana profiteers and their political allies – including the Tacoma City Council – weren’t content with the voters’ mandate for a nonprofit system.
The voters have never, ever mandated a nonprofit system. It’s never been voted on and there’s never been any public outcry whatsoever for ensuring that marijuana is distributed strictly by nonprofits. This is an imaginary concern made up by the Tacoma News-Tribune editorial board for reasons that I can’t seem to figure out.
Perceiving a lax attitude in the Obama administration, they launched a marijuana trafficking industry that – for all the talk about suffering patients – was really about the money. (Ask the sick people being forced to pay as much as $400 an ounce for the drug.)
This is beyond absurd. If you allowed for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries who competed with each other, you could quickly eliminate the gouging that goes on. The dispensary that offered the best product at the lowest price would win customers. This is how markets work. The fact that the Tacoma News-Tribune doesn’t understand high school level economics is mind-boggling.
The Obama administration, it turns out, isn’t so lax after all. Lately, the Justice Department has been warning that sticking the “medical” label on cash-oriented operations won’t stop the feds from prosecuting, fining and confiscating the property of marijuana dealers – and the officials who abet them.
Bullshit. Once again, this post has the video of a former narcotics officer in Colorado doing his job as a state inspector of for-profit medical marijuana operations. The federal government has no interest in arresting that guy, or the state-sanctioned businesses he oversees.
Gov. Chris Gregoire did precisely the right thing last month when she vetoed most of a bill that would have licensed for-profit marijuana dispensaries and grow operations.
It’s amazing how right wing crazies can have so much faith in the free market – but only until they encounter someone who’s making money on something they find morally offensive.
Marijuana aficionados have accused her of caving to empty threats from this state’s two U.S. attorneys.
Excuse me, assholes, but a 65-year-old with cancer whose doctor recommends marijuana as a way to increase appetite during chemotherapy is not a “marijuana aficionado”.
In fact, the former attorney general was reading the legal landscape accurately.
No, she wasn’t.
The threats are originating in Washington, D.C. – not this state – and they are serious. Multiple states have been getting them, along with dozens of federal raids on marijuana dealers.
As of yet, there hasn’t been a federal raid on a medical marijuana provider in this state who’s been in full compliance with state law. The DOJ and DEA are using these hypothetical threats as a way to get what they want without violating the mandate passed down by Obama. And as Paul Armentano points out here, these threats are showing up in other states because they see it working in Washington. All that’s required is a politician with some spine, like Bill Richardson in 2007, to stand up to the feds and tell them to back off. Richardson signed a medical marijuana bill with state regulations into law during the Bush Administration, when there was an actual threat in doing so, not just a hypothetical one.
This new reality makes the official licensing of marijuana dispensaries a reckless action, for local governments as well as the state.
Once again, in case you didn’t click the link above, that statement is complete and utter bullshit.
The Tacoma City Council, which has licensed roughly three dozen, has been waiting on legislative action to back up its local tolerance policy. But the Obama administration has made the Legislature irrelevant to any scheme for selling marijuana.
No, it hasn’t. Colorado, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maine were also allowing for marijuana to be sold and the Obama Administration didn’t lift a finger. It wasn’t until Gregoire started fishing for excuses to veto this bill that any of this came up.
Whatever happens in the special session, the City Council will be exposing landlords and city employees to serious legal risk if it doesn’t shut down anything that resembles a for-profit marijuana operation.
The News-Tribune editorial board is conflating two separate things here. The issue that Gregoire cited to justify her veto is one of state regulations. This involves ensuring that dispensaries operate under rules established by the Department of Health, and that growers operate under rules established by the Department of Agriculture. This has to be done whether these folks operate for-profit or not. In fact, the state Department of Revenue has been eagerly trying to collect taxes on dispensaries. According to Ben Livingston, who I spoke with a few days ago, the governor didn’t even know this was happening.
In Olympia, lawmakers would be wise to regroup, stop trying to extend faux legality to the industry and focus on passing a responsible budget this month.
I understand the importance of the budget right now, but the idea that we’re trying to extend “faux legality” to an industry that exists in a half-dozen other states is pure nonsense. Not to mention that establishing regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries (whether they operate for-profit or not) is the right thing to do. At the Americans for Safe Access discussion last Saturday in Seattle, Steph Sherer pointed out once again that crime levels have gone way down in California since dispensaries started to operate.
There remains the problem of helping legitimate patients get access to therapeutic marijuana. Unfortunately, hack practitioners have passed out so many medical authorizations to common drug-seekers that it’s impossible to know how big a problem this is.
It’s always impressive to see someone claim something is a huge problem in the same breath as saying that it’s impossible to know how big of a problem it is. It generally means they’re full of shit.
The industry has employed what amounts to a human shield strategy – hiding thousands of recreational users among the people who genuinely need the drug. It has every financial incentive to keep the numbers of “patients” as high as possible, and it takes only a handful of quacks and fly-by-night clinics to mass-produce the dubious authorizations needed to keep the industry swimming in cash.
This bill had some strong language to crack down on phony doctors – and the dispensaries were fine with that – so what’s the fucking point here?
The biggest favor the Legislature could do for the legitimate patients is enforce what the 1998 initiative envisioned: a strictly nonprofit system in which authorization happens in the context of established doctor-patient relationships. Then allow for a non-profit supply as needed.
But that system still has the same problem that caused the governor to veto the last bill. Non-profit growers and dispensers are just as in violation of federal law as for-profit ones. And non-profit growers and dispensers need to be regulated by state agencies just as for-profit ones do. What the clowns at the Tacoma News-Tribune editorial board are doing here is just pretending that the issue that they’re obsessed about (for whatever bizarre reason) is the reason this bill didn’t become law. It’s not.
Now it’s possible that the governor is knowingly making up this nonsense about state employees being at risk as a way to get the bill reworked to only allow non-profits, but I doubt it. The real irony would be if we ended up with a bill that allowed non-profits, but didn’t provide any state mechanism to oversee that they’re actually non-profit. In that case, both the governor and the Tacoma News-Tribune will get the system they deserve.
Stop the gold rush. Weed out the drug-seekers. As night follows day, the Justice Department will lose interest in this state’s medical marijuana.
Guess what, dummies? You can’t weed out the drug seekers. If you haven’t figured that out from the last 40 years of marijuana policy in this country, you’re too stupid to be writing for the editorial page of a high school newspaper, let alone for a city’s main newspaper. The question is about how to properly regulate commercial activity in a way that best protects the community. Handing the market to criminals isn’t the best way to do it.
UPDATE: So apparently, the governor thinks there’s a way forward now:
The News Tribune reports that Gregoire said Thursday she supports the new idea of “non-profit patient cooperatives.” Gregoire has rejected the idea of state-licensed, for-profit dispensaries. Instead, local governments would have the ability to license and zone the pot shops.
Um, what? So let me understand the governor’s contortions here. She couldn’t sign the original bill because the statewide regulations ran afoul of federal law and state employees could end up in the pokey. But she’ll support a bill that allows for local governments to license them. So has it somehow just become ok to regulate it at the local level? Or does the governor not care about city officials getting arrested by the feds?
Actually, I think I had an insufficient level of cynicism above. It appears that Gregoire’s veto wasn’t about the federal government at all. It was solely about two issues – the for-profit issue and the local control issue – the exact two issues that the Tacoma News-Tribune editorial board asked for. The nonsense about state employees being at risk was just that – nonsense.