By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Landlords, worried the feds will steal their property, will tell dispensaries to move out. Banks won't handle money for pot-themed businesses. Dispensaries will be taxed so heavily they won't be to cover the payroll or pay the electric bill.
Yet it remains to be seen whether federal prosecutors, who undoubtedly have even more serious criminals with which to contend, are willing and able to carry out the threat. When Jack Gillund, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag's spokesman, was asked whether her office had the resources to go after every dispensary or grower who doesn't comply with the 45-day deadline, he offered a simple reply: "No comment."
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in California's Eastern District, says Wagner's goal isn't to shut down everything. He's focusing on "large, professional, money-making operations—the commercial operations."
Horwood also says it's wrong to call it "Obama's crackdown." She says the California U.S. Attorneys decided to take action on their own because the situation has grown out of control among recreational users. But she acknowledges they received Obama's blessing.
It's classic political strategy: send the underlings out to take the heat, while the bosses hide under their skirts.
Either way, the end result casts Obama as even more zealous than George W. Bush. Bush threatened owners of dispensary properties in 2007, but he never followed up. Meanwhile, Colorado and other states have seen no similar crackdowns. Only time will tell whether Obama plans to destroy the entire medical-marijuana industry, or merely smack California around for a bit.
"I'm willing to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt," says Blair Butterworth, a Democratic consultant in Seattle, where about 100 dispensaries operate. "In California, they may be sitting on uncontrollable drug sales. They need to slap some wrists."
It's easy to pick on California, a state known for its excesses. But "the last thing Obama needs right now is to go to war nationally with the medical-marijuana community," Butterworth says.
Leniency for marijuana users, medical or otherwise, continues to be a popular Democratic stance, he says. Butterworth is helping the campaign to put outright legalization on the Washington state ballot next year. He thinks it has a good chance.
Of course, a successful election could just tick off the feds even more.
A MILLION PATIENTS CAN'T BE WRONG
An estimated 1 million people in California have obtained a doctor's recommendation to grow and use marijuana legally.
More than 150,000 medical-marijuana patients have registered in Colorado as of July.
Tens of thousands of patients are registered in other weed-friendly states.
If the feds shut down every dispensary in the country, all these people will still be able to legally possess marijuana—no matter where they bought it—under their state laws.
The only difference is they'll be forced to go back to buying their weed from Mexican drug cartels, rather than Americans who provide jobs and pay taxes.
It's akin to the feds saying that Anheuser-Busch can no longer sell beer; they'd prefer that people only buy from Al Capone.
Hey, wait—didn't something like that happen?