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May 3, 2012 06:21

The Great Divide: Amidst federal travesties—Oaksterdam, anyone?—we also suffer at the state level

Today, I am entrenched in trial with a medical marijuana case. My clients operated a compassionate, non-profit dispensary and each face eight felonies. By all accounts, they were completely compliant with state law, but their fate rests in the hands of 12 jurors. Yes, this is in state court.

How is that possible? This is what I call “The Great Divide.”

Although we see dispensaries daily with signs in the front window, DAs and law enforcement in California assert with overwhelming conviction that distribution of medical cannabis is illegal. Thus, the argument goes, dispensaries are illegal.

Arguing with these DAs and law enforcement officers is usually as futile as arguing with a brick wall; they will not succumb to reason, legal proof or even compassion for the quality of life medical marijuana provides patients. In order to be legal, DAs say, the “collective must operate like a farm on an Amish settlement” where everyone has a physical hand in the actual growing process and no money ever exchanges hands. Really??

Seriously! This is, in fact, the argument California Attorney General Kamala Harris made in a recent appellate court case, People v. Colvin. Thankfully, the appellate court justices are enlightened enough to scoff at this notion and affirm that “contribution by all or some members” is not necessary.

Although Colvin is a small sigh of relief for defense lawyers and their clients, do you think this stops DAs in their tracks? Do they lay off dispensaries and growers? Nope. My clients face trial and loss of liberty, not to mention financial ruin and unspeakable stresses. Sadly, this is a common tale—painful litigation must pave the way to change how patients and dispensaries are treated by the justice system.

 

  • Do not be fooled into thinking that possession of a medical marijuana recommendation is a carte blanche. Take extra measures to ensure you are not caught in this trap unaware.

  • Act responsibly. As patients, we have a duty to demonstrate to the world that the stigma of medical marijuana is unfounded. We must be extra conservative about our smoking behaviors.

  • Get involved. Go to political rallies put on by ASA, NORML and others. Speak or write to your local city council. Civil disobedience is necessary for change!


 

Meital Manzuri is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney, speaker and consultant for patients, collectives and dispensaries. If you have questions about medical marijuana or any other criminal defense matters, she can be contacted via phone at (310) 601-3140 or manzurilaw.com.

 
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