Drug Law

L.A. Medical Marijuana Salesman Faces State Charges

| by Reason Foundation

A follow up on last week's report on the federal DEA continuing to participate in raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that are state-legal...or are they??

That's the very loophole the DEA can continue to exploit, since there are, shall we say, differences of opinion on exactly what behaviors are legal in California when it comes to medical marijuana. For example, the L.A. City Council and the state attorney general both think (non-profit) cash sales to legitimate patients who are members of a collective or a cooperative are OK.

But L.A.'s County district attorney and city attorney vehemently disagree, and thus the arrest and charges by the county against local dispensary operator Jeff Joseph.

More details from the L.A. Times:

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

Jeff Joseph, Organica's operator, was charged with 24 felonies, including selling, transporting and possessing marijuana, and a court commissioner set bail at $520,000, more than five times the amount his lawyer requested. Joseph pleaded not guilty.....

Joseph's case, which was intensely investigated by police and federal agents, has the potential to test whether state law permits dispensaries to sell marijuana.

Cooley and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich insist that state law allows collectives to grow marijuana and recoup their costs but not sell it over the counter, a practice that is widespread. Both have sought to pursue cases that could force the courts to settle the debate.

Trutanich won an early round in a lawsuit against an Eagle Rock dispensary. A Superior Court judge ordered it to halt sales. Last week, the city attorney filed a similar lawsuit against Joseph and Organica....

Shevin [Joseph's lawyer] acknowledged that the facts in the case are "essentially undisputed," but challenged the district attorney's position that medical marijuana sales are illegal. "It's just in contradiction to the law in this area," he said.

For more on the background to last week's local and federal actions against L.A. dispensary operators, see my California news and politics blog "City of Angles." Look for a forthcoming feature in Reason magazine on the twisted saga of how L.A. became the "wild West of weed" and the political backlash.