The US medical marijuana industry desperately needs something to cheer about, and it got just that last week. Times three.
Both Arizona and New Jersey made tangible strides with their medical cannabis programs, setting the stage for dispensaries to open in the near future. At the same time, a prominent dispensary in California (Berkeley Patients Group) that was forced to close due to federal threats is mounting a comeback attempt and hopes to reopen in a new location later this year.
To be certain, nothing is a done deal, and all three efforts face additional challenges. But these are extremely important developments that come at a key time in the industry’s history.
The progress Arizona and New Jersey made last week ranks as a symbolic victory for the entire US medical marijuana industry, signalling that both states are pushing forward in the face of federal pressure that has forced thousands of dispensaries to close nationwide. If the government is trying to scare states into abandoning MMJ, the strategy isn’t working (at least so far). The Obama administration will have to pump more resources and personnel into the effort, which is something it probably can’t afford to do. Each additional state that allows dispensaries to open erodes the government’s justification for its crackdown and encourages other areas to move forward with MMJ plans.
On the same token, Berkeley Patients Group’s efforts to rise from the ashes will test whether the federal government is – as officials say – just going after huge dispensaries, those located close to schools and those violating state MMJ laws or if that is all just a big excuse to close as many cannabis businesses as possible.
The government pressured Berkeley’s landlord, saying the dispensary was located too close to a school. The new site Berkeley’s owners are eyeing is located far enough away from places where children congregate that the government won’t be able to use that excuse this time around. Now it’s time to see if US Attorney Melinda Haag will back off completely or come up with a new reason to target Berkeley.
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