U.S. Crackdown on Medical Marijuana Unnerves Industry
The billion-dollar medical marijuana industry has been badly shaken by the increasing federal crackdown on its sellers and growers, which has also highlighted the harsh contradiction between state and federal policies.
The medical-marijuana industry sprung up in the state of California since voters approved the medical use of the drug in 1996.
However, possession and sale of marijuana is classified under federal laws as serious crimes and does not grant any exception, even for medical use. This means that the programs adopted in California and in 15 other states, as well as in the District of Columbia, exists in a peculiar legal limbo.
Although Californians have long been targeted by federal agencies, the Justice Department stated in 2009 that, it would not pursue groups that provide, in accordance with state laws, marijuana to sick patients.
However, in the past couple of weeks, federal prosecutors have threatened to seize or raided the property of growers and dispensaries in California that local officials have sometimes regarded as law-abiding models. The Internal Revenue Service, at the same time, has levied huge, disputed tax claims against the largest dispensary in the state, threatening its ability to continue its operations.
In a sign of boiling tensions between federal agencies and the state, the attorney general of California, Kamala Harris, described in piercing terms the announcement made on Oct 7 by four United States attorneys of their hard-hitting new campaign against dispensaries. In that announcement, they referred to dispensaries as commercial operations in violation of the intent of California law and federal statutes.