Medical marijuana trade groups, lawyers and industry advisers across the nation are trying to allay fears that the federal government’s crackdown in California will spread to other states. California’s pot industry, they argue, is mostly unregulated, allowing shady businesses to flourish and large-scale marijuana operations to grow virtually unchecked. Medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up near schools. Selling product out the back door has become common. And “medical” marijuana is often advertised to recreational users.
The federal government, the argument continues, is simply targeting the businesses and individuals that are blatantly abusing the system.
But some industry observers see something else playing out: The start of a wider federal effort to end the industry as we know it.
Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who closely follows the sector, is one of them. He believes this is the “beginning of the end” for medical marijuana businesses.
“I think the federal government turned a blind eye for a time, but now this is the end,” Kamin said in blog post on the University of Denver’s website. “They aren’t going to allow them any longer.”
It might sound alarmist, but it’s not out of the question. At one point it seemed the industry had so much momentum that there was no way the government could turn back the clock. But with an election year right around the corner, the feds have decided to play hardball, and everyone is on edge.
With some people saying we’re seeing an isolated, targeted crackdown on certain elements of the medical marijuana business and others viewing recent developments as the start of something bigger, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going to happen next. The reality might be that we see something in between, with the government exerting just enough pressure to initiate an industry contraction but not enough to destroy it completely.