What a scam the medical marijuana movement turned out to be. Sold originally as a way to allow the relatively few to obtain cannabis that can clearly ameliorate symptoms—such as loss of appetite in AIDS and cancer and relief from nerve pain caused by diabetes—it ended up being about creating (or was co-opted to promote) a quasi legalization to facilitate recreational users obtaining their high. In other words, MM was (or became) a Trojan Horse in which sick people with genuine needs were used as fronts for people who just wanted to have fun.
Proof of that hypothesis came when commercial growing of “medical” marijuana began—with capacities to grow far more than needed to provide “medicine” to people with genuine illnesses and disabilities. But the underlying message of MM—that cannabis should just be legal, along with the prospect of tax revenue—persuaded cities such as Oakland that they should license huge commercial growing centers.
But now, the Department of Justice has put the kibosh on the idea by stating that the Feds will enforce federal law against such commercial growers. From the Justice Department memo explaining their reasoning:
The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts...
[W]ithin the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants. The Ogden Memorandum [directing that individuals not be focus of enforcement] was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law...The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcing existing federal criminal laws in all states, and enforcement of the CSA has long been and remains a core priority.
Exactly right, and fully in keeping with the president’s and members of the DOJ’s oaths of office.
Some are screaming that President Obama is breaking his promise not to go after MM where legal under state law. Not true. He (wrongly, in my view) said he would not enforce the law against medical marijuana users, thereby stating (again, in my view) that he would break his oath of office. But, he never said he would permit industrialization of the marijuana supply to (in effect) permit greater access to recreational use.
But as I have written many times, that should not be the end of it. The Controlled Substances Act needs to change. What he should have done—and still should do—is propose legislation to change marijuana’s classification under the CSA from a drug with no medicinal benefit, to one that does provide efficacious symptom relief. That would allow cannabis to be tested and prescribed, along with delivery methods beyond smoking to be developed so that sick people can have their relief (as with the far stronger drug morphine), and personal recreational marijuana use could remain illegal (if merely as akin to a speeding ticket).
But we don’t take principled roads anymore. We slouch toward uncertain destinations and allow inertia to take us off cliffs. And that’s a bigger problem than the medical marijuana controversy.