Over the past few months, it’s become abundantly clear that no one is safe in the medical marijuana industry, especially if you’re located in California.
Have a great reputation in the community? Cited frequently as a model dispensary? Existed for more than a decade with no complaints? Not good enough to avoid winding up in the federal crosshairs.
The government has clearly entered a new phase in its crackdown on medical cannabis, targeting some of the biggest, most respected dispensaries in California. The latest example came last week when two longstanding dispensaries in San Francisco were forced to close after their landlords received threatening letters from the government. By all accounts, the dispensaries – the Vapor Room and HopeNet – have a pretty solid reputation and impressive track record.
These developments are particularly distressing because there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the crackdown. The government has given various explanations: that officials will only go after dispensaries violating local regulations, or ones located too close to where children gather, or those that are too big. But many dispensaries targeted in recent months don’t fit that criteria. These are not fly-by-night operations violating local regulations or MMJ centers that set up shop right next to schools.
The biggest concern is that the government will use the same strategy to expand its crackdown in other MMJ states like Colorado and Washington as well as those coming online this year, such as Arizona.
Some lawmakers are now trying to address the situation, introducing a bill last week that would prevent the government from threatening to seize the property of landlords with MMJ tenants. It’s nice to see some influential people taking the problem seriously. But there’s simply not enough support in Washington for measures that aid the MMJ industry, and the bill stands little chance of passage.
For now, the medical cannabis industry will have to hold on as long as possible and hope that the Obama administration eases up on medical marijuana after the election, that the nation elects a new president (which might not help anyway) or that several lawsuits working their way through the courts end favorably for the industry.
Also last week, a government agency released a highly controversial report claiming that Colorado’s MMJ laws are failing to prevent medical cannabis grown in the state from being sold illegally throughout the country. As expected, the industry responded with outrage, claiming the study is flawed (it is), biased (could be) and that it’s simply another tool the government will use to crack down on legit cannabis businesses (you betcha).
An understandable response. But not a very productive one. Our biggest concern is that the industry doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that, yes, there is a problem. Shouldn’t MMJ professionals be outraged that patients, growers and dispensary owners and workers are abusing the laws? Shouldn’t they be angry that these individuals are giving the whole industry – and their businesses – a black eye? Shouldn’t there be calls for more self-policing on the industry’s part?
It’s fine to defend medical marijuana businesses when these types of studies are released. But the industry might accomplish must more if it also showed a willingness to acknowledge the problem and work on solutions rather than just rail against the government.
Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week: