If there's anything that Californians have learned in the 16 years since voters passed Proposition 215, it's this: medical marijuana is a mess. On the one hand, marijuana has gotten a lot easier to come by over the years. What used to be only available on the street or in a few scattered dispensaries in the Bay Area or Los Angeles in the past few years has blossomed into hundreds if not thousands of storefront operations and delivery services. And anybody with a doctor's note that you can obtain for as little as $20 is allowed to posses, cultivate or smoke the stuff.
On the other hand, cities up and down the state have outlawed dispensaries and sued their operators and landlords, police have raided clubs with growing enthusiasm, and especially in the past year, the feds have stepped in and cracked down big-time. It didn't help matters that California tried to legalize recreational weed in 2010 with Proposition 19 and failed
. But non-medical weed isn't going away anytime soon, according to some major news that broke yesterday: voters in Washington State and Colorado have passed America's first two laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
While pot fans celebrate in those two states, supporters of a similar measure in Oregon were disappointed when their proposal failed at the polls. Meanwhile, Montana, which already allowed medical marijuana, passed an initiative restricting the availability of weed there, while voters in Massachusetts passed a medical marijuana law for the first time and Arkansas voted against the concept.
It's still too early to know what's going to happen in Washington or Colorado once the euphoria breaks and reality settles in, but more than one source of mine, anticipating the victory in Colorado, have already moved there, hoping to find opportunities in the new marijuana economy there. Colorado's Governor, John Hickenlooper--who clearly knows a thing or two about the munchies--has warned cannabis enthusiasts not to "break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly," because there's one big obstacle facing recreational weed in his state, vote or no vote: the feds, who have likely already started tracking developments in the Mountain State for future enforcement actions.
Of course, the feds only came into California and stared threatening dispensaries and landlords after cities throughout the state begged for such help. But as one of my sources, speaking to friends flocking to Colorado, warns, don't pretend you or your crop will be safe just because you passed a pot-friendly law. The source has close friends who were recently arrested by DEA agents for doing something--distributing marijuana to people with doctor's notes--that they assumed was legal under Prop. 215.
What she said is worth repeating here.
"I don't mean to be a buzz kill for all those Californians migrating to Washington & Colorado, but let me remind you that regardless of state laws, the Feds will come kicking down your door, waving guns in your face, they will take your children, your assets & your freedom; over a plant." she said. "Winning a battle, doesn't mean victory! Federal Law needs to change before we can truly see progress. Ask all the CA MMJ Patients sitting in federal prison, on charges equal to heroin dealers, what California laws did for them!!!!!!"
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