President Barack Obama made an earnest attempt to clarify his thinking on medical marijuana, telling Rolling Stone that his main concern is with “a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may…be supplying recreational users.”
But his comments – which received widespread coverage this week – have created even more confusion, observers say. In other words, they’ve made the “murky” area of the government’s views even murkier.
Most true professionals in the MMJ industry would likely agree that the government should shut down dispensaries and growers selling to people without patient cards and engaging in illegal drug sales.
The problem, however, is that the Obama administration isn’t just targeting those types of operations. Dispensaries and cultivation sites in full compliance with state medical cannabis laws have been caught up in the government’s crackdown as well. In California and Colorado, for instance, dozens of dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools have been forced to shut down or close – even though they were operating legally under local regulations.
At the same time, the government has raided MMJ businesses across the country without revealing the reasoning behind its actions. In some cases, the businesses were selling out the back door, and the owners and employees have been prosecuted. In other cases, however, the government hasn’t even pressed charges, leaving the industry to wonder why the businesses were raided in the first place.
Obama’s comments in Rolling Stone also seem to conflict with the recent raid of Oaksterdam University, a long-standing school in Oakland, California, that teaches students how to cultivate medical marijuana and prepares them for jobs in the MMJ industry. Industry insiders say that it’s hard to believe Oaksterdam classifies as a “large-scale, commercial operation” that is selling cannabis to recreational users.
Actions like this seem to conflict with Obama’s statements (note: the government has not stated its reasons behind the Oaksterdam raid).
Some observers have taken Obama to task for his comments in Rolling Stone, with one even accusing the president of lying. Others say they understand his reasoning but argue that it’s not playing out that way in the real world.
Regardless, it’s hard for MMJ businesses to figure out exactly how to proceed going forward, as it’s still unclear what the federal government will tolerate when it comes to medical marijuana operations.