Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rule of Law and Medical Marijuana

The U-T reported this morning on San Diego city government's failure to shut down illegal medical marijuana shops.  To be clear, there are currently no legal medical marijuana shops in the city.  
 The case is instructive on the results of the failure of the rule of law, including the failure to pass implementing laws that unwelcome, but legal activity to proceed.  Councilmember Ed Harris wants a process that shines the light of transparency on the efforts to close the illegal shops.
The proposal comes as the abundance of illegal dispensaries has begun adding turbulence to the already complex approval process facing applicants trying to open the city’s first legal pot shops. 
Part of that process, which began in April, is getting the blessing of neighborhood leaders who serve on community planning groups. But multiple planning groups have said frustration about illegal dispensaries in their area makes them less likely to embrace the legal dispensaries being proposed 
In both Pacific Beach, whereas many as 25 illegal dispensaries operate, and Mira Mesa, where there are roughly half a dozen, community leaders say the illegal pot shops are tainting the process of approving legal ones.
It has been almost 18 years since California passed Prop 215 which legalized medical marijuana sales and somehow we can't figure this out.  The interference of the federal government in shutting down pot dispensaries hasn't helped, after the unfortunate Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v Raich, which expanded the interstate commerce clause unnecessarily.  However, San Diego never really came to grips with how it was going to allow this unwelcome but lawful (under California law) activity.  But then, Mayor Filner made it worse, of course, by announcing that he would not enforce the zoning laws regarding the dispensaries, and wouldn't wait for the legislative process to work this out.  The result has been predictable; with the growth of illegal dispensaries to 100.  (This seems to be playing out on the southern border as the President's repeated insistence that he would grant various forms of amnesty unilaterally has provoked a humanitarian crisis.)

I can only hope that we can speed the process of allowing the legal permitting of dispensaries, so that neighborhoods feel that they are protected by law and have a voice in where the dispensaries are located.  My concern is that the slow wheels of bureaucracy will have the same effect as the illegal tactics of Filner, only illegal dispensaries operating.  Lack of clarity in the law, failure to allow a path ahead for what should be legal activity and a failure to enforce the law have led to this mess.

Making matters worse, the California state legislature has again failed to pass a bill that would impose statewide uniformity on medical marijuana and further normalize the business.

Photo credit: "Medical-marijuana-sign" uncropped image from Laurie Avocado. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

What You Should Be Reading

  • Lots of military members angry at Ferguson law enforcement over tactics and paraphernalia heavier than what they used in Afghanistan.  See all the tweets
  • Professor Perry has a host of great links on the Ferguson MO issue.  My favorite is from Nick Gillespie: Let’s Make Cops Wear Cameras – “Everyone behaves better when they’re on video.”  The situation Ferguson also has to do with the rule of law.
  • KTCat continues to skewer the administration over its failure to deal with ISIS.

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