CALIFORNIA: No joke. At the recently concluded American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco—as at most other gatherings—lawyers like to talk. They may be contentious or cooperative, but they do like to talk. Especially about something controversial, and especially about outsmarting the government.
From that viewpoint, medical marijuana is a perfect storm. And the lawyers don’t need munchies to talk about it. California is one of many states in which the medical marijuana industry—and the lawyers that represent its players—struggle for survival and legitimacy.
Prosecutors continue to take a hard line on marijuana infractions. And some lawyers in private practice are looking at the best way to make sales. Mind you, we’re talking about legal sales of medical marijuana.
It’s that old oil and water issue of federal v. state law. Many states—21 of them now—have legalized marijuana for medical use. Several states—Washington and Colorado—have legalized it completely. Yet under federal law, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
No matter how good a patient’s medical needs may be or how many doctors line up on the patient’s behalf, marijuana is still a no-no to the feds. And this is not merely academic. The enforcement of federal law is real, no matter what state law allows.
Given the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere, this issue is unlikely to go away entirely anytime soon. For one, the tax problems of the industry are notorious. See Voters Say Yes To Marijuana, IRS Says No. Even legal dispensaries are drug traffickers to the feds.