|California Attorney General Kamala Harris: “Without a substantive change to existing law, these irreconcilable interpretations of the law, and the resulting uncertainty for law enforcement and seriously ill patients, will persist”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to get serious about clarifying the state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law. According to Harris, gray areas have left law enforcement and patients in a state of perpetual uncertainty.
The attorney general, who was elected with widespread backing from the state’s medical marijuana industry (OK, it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, it was more a case of “Anybody But Cooley
“), has been under pressure to defend the state’s medicinal cannabis law since October, when the state’s four U.S. Attorneys announced a statewide crackdown on dispensaries.
Dozens of the shops — which the federal prosecutors claimed were fronts for public drug dealing — have since closed, reports Lisa Leff at the Associated Press
Harris said in a letter to two leaders of the Legislature that California needs to decide if, in fact, the hundreds of storefront dispensaries and delivery services that sell cannabis are legal, or if the only legal way to get medicinal cannabis is through patient collectives.
”Without a substantive change to existing law, these irreconcilable interpretations of the law, and the resulting uncertainty for law enforcement and seriously ill patients, will persist,” she wrote in the letter to Senate President Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez.
Harris also sent another letter Wednesday to the U.S. Attorneys alerting them of her requests to the Legislature. To her credit, the Attorney General asked the federal prosecutors to focus on human trafficking and international gangs instead of California patients and providers who are trying to comply with the state’s medical marijuana laws.
“The federal government is ill-equipped to be the sole arbiter of whether an individual or group is acting within the bounds of California’s medical marijuana laws when cultivating marijuana for medical purposes,” Harris wrote to the federal prosecutors.
Harris’ office spent much of the year trying to rewrite the medical marijuana guidelines issued by then-Attorney General, now Gov. Jerry Brown in 2008.
But in the letters sent Wednesday, Harris sounded ready to drop back and punt. She said after talking with city councils and county supervisors, police and the medical marijuana community that it is up to the Legislature to clarify the law, because any directives she issued would by definition lack the force of law, which sounds uncomfortably close to “it’s not my problem.”
The Legislature may have a certain lack of enthusiasm for tackling the thorny subject of medical marijuana again. Earlier this year, two cannabis-related bills — one that would have prohibited employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients, and another that would have made growing marijuana a misdemeanor — did not get anywhere.