07
Jun
10

Leading and following

In an unexpected display of leadership, Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado just signed two bills regulating Colorado’s Medical Marijuana industry, providing clear rules for operators, patients, doctors and law enforcement officials.  Not everyone is happy about the regulations, but no one seems entirely unpleased and at a minimum, the laws provide clear guidelines.  You can read the details from the Washington Post report here, but here’s the critique from the cannabis activist community:

The measures face potential legal challenges from supporters who say they go too far, allowing communities like Vail, Aurora, Superior, Arapahoe County and Colorado Springs to clamp down on the industry.  “On the one hand, we are pleased it legitimizes this health care industry; however, we are concerned it may be overly strict and could cut off patient access to medication as a result of the dwindling number of dispensaries,” said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a medical marijuana patients’ group.

At the same time, as if to emphasize the  contrast between Colorado’s statewide approach and California’s patchwork of regulations, L.A.’s city-wide attempt to play catch-up goes into effect today.  From the L.A. Times:

More than five years after the Los Angeles City Council began debating controls on medical marijuana dispensaries, Los Angeles Ordinance No. 181069 now takes effect…The ordinance shuts down more than 400 stores that opened in the last 2 1/2 years. Dispensaries that registered with the city in 2007 will have six months to comply with new location restrictions, which will force many to move to isolated areas.

How’s that going to work, you may ask?  For the shop owners who decide that they aren’t interested in making money anymore, I suppose they could just close up and go home.   Seems pretty unlikely.  For the rest, those who decide to live with the uncertainty, they’ll be faced with fines and intimidation.  From the same article:

City prosecutors have declined to spell out how they will enforce the ordinance. “Our next step will be to ascertain the level of compliance,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney. She said her office would rely on reports from police officers, building inspectors and neighbors to identify violators.

Like I said, fines and intimidation.  Or, they could just move to Long Beach, or Ventura, or the Inland Empire, or Orange County.  Or, they could head to the semi-underground – the home delivery market.  A report out today from KPCC California Public Radio calls attention to the ongoing absurdity of the California approach:

A flourishing and unregulated industry of pot delivery services is circumventing bans on storefront dispensaries and bringing medical marijuana directly to people’s homes, offices and more unconventional locations across the state, records and interviews show.

The unfettered delivery of marijuana through hundreds of these services highlights how quickly California’s fabled pot industry is moving from the shadows and into uncharted legal territory. These new couriers include enterprising farmers, business entrepreneurs and even a former Los Angeles pot dealer methodically switching her former clients to legal patients.

In other words, after five years of hemming and hawing, L.A.’s attempt to retro-actively regulate the industry that grew up around the initial attempts to regulate the industry produced a tiny legal speed bump that threatens to inconvenience some people while accomplishing very little.   Life  in the “Wild West.”

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