Medical Marijuana in California Targeted by the Feds

Chris Greenhough

Federal and state laws on the medical use of marijuana vary greatly in California. While federal law states the possession and sale of marijuana is a serious crime, Californian voters approved medical use of the drug in 1996.

It's a legal conundrum, in other words, but since 1996 federal agencies and authorities have long turned a blind eye to the practice of growing medical marijuana in the Golden State (while continuing to target those who make illegal profits in the name of medicine, or who smuggle marijuana across state lines). The growth of marijuana for medical purposes has become a billion-dollar industry, with Californian growers and dispensaries leading the way.

Recently however, more and more growers in the state are reporting raids by federal authorities - even those regarded by local officials as law-abiding. Threats to seize property have suddenly rocketed.

In turn, this has hurt the state-authorized industry, especially after the Internal Revenue Service introduced hefty (and widely disputed) tax charges against the state's largest dispensary, which is now facing a fight for its future.

This follows an October 7 announcement from four United States attorneys of a new, tougher campaign against medical marijuana dispensaries. Kamala D. Harris, attorney general of California, describes the effect of the new campaign:

“It was a unilateral federal action, and it has only increased uncertainty about how Californians can legitimately comply with state law,” Ms. Harris said in an interview. Since federal authorities do not recognize that marijuana can serve medical ends, she said, “they are ill equipped to be the decision makers as to which providers are violating the law.”

Where do you stand on the use of marijuana for medical purposes?