But this news has been met with everything from optimism to wariness to disappointment to outright denunciation among advocates of medical marijuana. Supposedly, patients in states where medical marijuana is legal, including California, can now light up without fear of federal reprisal.
An editorial in the Contra Costa Times says the new guidelines for federal prosecutors, handed down this week with the blessing of Attorney General Eric Holder, are "not good enough."
They are "are an attempt to thread a political needle rather than a recognition of the value of the drug and a deferral to the desire of voters in 14 states."
Yes, it is heartening, the Times says, that federal prosecutors are told to not focus resources on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
Still, the federal policy states that " 'clear and unambiguous compliance with state law' " is not a legal defense to violation of federal law."
Bottom line, the Times says, these new "squishy" guidelines fail to offer providers of medical marijuana any real protection from being prosecuted under federal law. These operators could still be prosecuted, if federal prosecutors get an itch to do so.
Sure, no one is naive enough to believe that every pot club, or every doctor taking payment to write medical marijuana prescriptions, is only dispensing to people who are seriously suffering from painful, devastating, life-alterating medical conditions. Sure, some people might be manipulating the medical marijuana system to obtain pot for recreational purposes. Okay, I might be venturing here into the whole debate over whether the use and sales of marijuana should be legalized. (I think it should, as I've suggested before.)
Meanwhile, back to decriminalizing the use and sales of medical marijuana: There might be medical marijuana dispensaries that are--OMG--operating legitimately, legally, and responsibly. That is, they are only selling it to people with a true medical need.
It's possible that there are a number of such facilities in California, in the Bay Area, even in Walnut Creek.
With regard to our hometown pot club--C3 Collective: This business appears to have put in quite an effort to demonstrate its desire to stay in Walnut Creek and to work with the local business leaders and the city to show it can be a good neighbor and a positive community member. The Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce welcomed C3 Collective's opening a couple weeks ago (pictured above), although chamber members, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, hastened to add that they always welcome new businesses and members to its organization.
The New York Times Bay Area blog talked to C3 Collective's CEO Brian Hyman. He was guarded about the new federal guidelines. Federal guidelines or not, C3 Collective continues to rack up fines of up to $500 a day from the city for continuing to dispense marijuana. According to the city, C3 Collective's decision to dispense marijuana puts it in violation of city zoning codes and a nuisance ordinance that prohibits the operation of any organization in the city that violates federal law.
“It’s really sad to see such a level of change and understanding and reflection and then to have our collective get put through the ringer,” Hyman told the New York Times.
But City Attorney Paul Valle-Riestra said the C3 collective received its business permit without disclosing the fact that it sells marijuana. Its owners "knew from the outset it wasn’t something the city allowed," Valle-Riestra told the Times.
Nonetheless, the city has launched an in-house study over if and how it will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open in town. As the New York Times concluded: The Justice Department memo and C3 Collective's situation "raise the question whether and how cities and counties will manage medical marijuana dispensaries in the future."