|Photo: Monica Almeida/New York Times|
District Attorney Steve Cooley has been promising for months to “get tough” with marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, and this week, he followed through.
The media-loving, trash-talking D.A. charged dispensary owner Jeff Jones — who, maybe not coincidentally, is also an outspoken medical cannabis advocate — with 24 felonies, including selling and transporting marijuana, as well as money laundering, reports Richard Gonzales of NPR.
Cooley, who infamously said last year that “approximately zero” of L.A.’s dispensaries are operating legally, is now basing what looks to be misguided political ambition upon a quixotic quest to drive the pot shops out of business.
Bail for Joseph was set at more than half a million dollars, an amount usually reserved for violent criminals, according to Joseph’s attorney, Eric Shevin.
“They made an example of him,” Shevin said. “He’s a very outspoken, well-known advocate of marijuana, so he sends a stronger message to the community than the many other dispensary operators that no one even talks about.”
|Photo: L.A. District Attorney’s Office|
|Dumb and dumber: L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley (left) and City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich really hate medical marijuana dispensaries. They probably think you suck hard, too.|
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office has joined in a civil lawsuit against Joseph and two other dispensaries, claiming they are public nuisances and are operating illegally.
The defining question is whether dispensaries are allowed to sell marijuana over the counter. All sides agree that it will probably take an appellate court decision to settle the debate.
Medical marijuana advocates say the Los Angeles district attorney and city attorney are misinterpreting the law.
“They want to ban all dispensaries in the state of California,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
“Ever since Prop 215 passed, law enforcement has frequently taken an adversarial role against the electorate of California,” Elford said. “The prosecution of Mr. Joseph is one of the latest incidents of law enforcement seeking to undermine California’s medical marijuana law.”
Cooley’s crackdown comes just after the Los Angeles City Council moved to reduce the number of dispensaries in the city, which is estimated to have reached around 800.
The boom in pot shops happened while city officials were trying to draw up the regulations, with hundreds slipping under the wire by exploiting a boilerplate “hardship” exemption in an ineffectual dispensary moratorium that was imposed a couple years ago.