State of EmergencyBy Jasen T. Davis
Every medical cannabis patient is apprehensive at hearing that their dispensary has been raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration—unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon sight. Once the feds show up, arrests and confiscations usually follow and people suffering from chronic pain, diseases or other ailments are left stuck in a lurch.
Aside from not knowing where they will be able to secure their next dosage, most medical cannabis patients wonder if they will be safe from legal harassment. Will police officers show up at their home or office the next day asking questions? Will they be harassed or arrested by federal agents for being a patient or using cannabis to treat their ills?
Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, understands your fears. “We haven’t heard of cases where patients were harassed after raids; they’re looking for the bigger fish.”
Remember, President Obama apparently has “bigger fish to fry.”
Yes, your attempt to obtain, use and possess a federally controlled substance in theory should lead to your rotting in a penitentiary for years, but the government isn’t rounding up people yet.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, according to NORML and several MMJ and cannabis advocates:
● Be polite to officers, and comply with reasonable requests (like sitting down or staying put).
● Have your paperwork, ID, doctor’s recommendations, ect., on your person so you can corroborate your status as an MMJ patient.
● Tell the authorities you wish to remain silent and speak to an attorney
As scary as the issue can be, the feds, for the most part, tend to leave individual patients alone—and tend to focus their attention on big dispensary operators, growers and other high-profile members of the MMJ community.
“Although all marijuana is illegal under federal law, the feds have pledged not to come after patients, and they have held to that pledge,” Komp says. “They come after operators they claim aren’t complying with state law, are operating for profit, or are too close to schools.”
That means that even if your dispensary was raided yesterday, the FBI probably isn’t going to kick down your door tomorrow morning.
What about local police? Will a police officer go through the files of a raided dispensary, find a person’s medical records and harass them for being a cannabis patient? Probably not. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects doctors and patients from such a violation of privacy, and the consequences for violating HIPAA security regulations, even for police officers, are very serious, involving heavy fines and even jail time for violators. Yes, medical cannabis patients are protected by HIPAA.
Until medical cannabis is finally legalized on a federal level across the United States, some patients will continue to live in fear, on one level or another. The good news is that laws are changing, state by state (18 at last count), and politicians are learning that normal, everyday American citizens approve of legalization and cannabis right more and more with every election cycle.
“California NORML is working for full legalization, under which there would be no need for adults to register anywhere to use marijuana,” Komp says.
As politicians continue to embrace the issue because of public pressure, raids on dispensaries might decrease. Until laws change, that’s the best hope we can all have.