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Busting Pot Clubs Waste Of Tax Funds


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What do a retired Republican cop, a liberal gay politician and a bunch of dope dealers have in common?

It sounds like the opening line of an off-color joke, one that ends badly for the farmer's daughter. This, however, is a real collection of people allied in the struggle against the blind tyranny of the federal government's war on drugs that's come to Los Angeles.

Sounds a bit like anti-government fanaticism. But it doesn't take an ultra-libertarian nut who just wants to be left alone with his drugs, porn and collection of semiautomatic handguns (for deer hunting, of course) to be concerned about the U.S. government's raids of 10 legal L.A. businesses last week. Or, worse still, the threatening letters the Drug Enforcement Agency sent to the landlords of these businesses earlier this month that warned of "seizure of assets" or even being arrested if they didn't kick their tenants out.

The businesses in question were medical-marijuana dispensaries - let's just call them pot clubs for short. No matter what you might think about pot smoking and its medicinal value, dispensaries are legal to operate in the state of California. Period. Just like strip bars. You might not enjoy the show, but other Californians have the right to.

L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine (the ex-cop), with the support of the rest of the City Council (including Bill Rosendahl, the liberal, gay pol) and pot-club owners (the dope dealers), is trying to stop the DEA raids. In addition to sending a letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy (which she apparently ignored), he proposed a temporary ban on new pot clubs and a plan to come up with municipal regulation that would make existing clubs about as worrisome as a Rite Aid. The idea is to, hopefully, show the feds that L.A. can keep the clubs in line, even if it hadn't managed to do so before. The council adopted the ordinance on the very same day - Wednesday - that the feds raided those L.A. pot clubs.

"We want regulation. We just want you to give us the rules so we can follow them," one pot-club owner pleaded to the City Council on Wednesday. Things have got to be dire to find businesses begging to fill out city paperwork and pay taxes.

All this raiding and lack of regulation is fairly new, though the dispensary law is not. Voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, or Proposition 215, in 1996. This initiative decriminalized the use of pot by sick people if they had a prescription for it written by an actual physician. Local agencies were supposed to make plans for access for pot clubs and rules and such, but no one really wanted to get involved with something that's still technically illegal in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Justice. And since you never know what way the political winds might shift in Washington, D.C., well, it's hard to blame them.

Once the dam was breached, however, a flood was inevitable. And when it got here 10 years later, no one was ready.

In late 2005, Los Angeles law enforcement officials figure there were only four dispensaries within the city limits - that's roughly one for every million residents. One year later, there were about 100 - more than half of them in the San Fernando Valley. That's a growth of some 2,400 percent in one year.

Those kinds of numbers have a way of getting noticed. It was this explosive, and fairly unregulated, growth of pot clinics that alarmed communities and attracted the unwanted attentions of the DEA, which started breaking down doors (quite literally).

So why would the feds waste their time and our taxes to roust cancer patients, injured people and a few potheads clever enough to get bogus scrip? Why, when there are plenty of illegal drug operations in California that keep so many of our city's gangsters in AK-47s and bail money?

To make a point. California is one of 12 states to ignore the federal drug officials' ineffective and punitive money pit of an anti-drug effort and pass laws that make sense to their voters. That must really steam them.

Sad to say that L.A.'s attempt to regulate the pot clubs is unlikely to shut down the DEA's zeal for busting them. A bill to prohibit U.S. agents from raiding and prosecuting medical-pot users and clubs in California and the other 11 states failed Thursday in the U.S. House. It got 165 votes, some of them even from Republicans. But it wasn't enough to pass. So the game of My Law Is Better Than Your Law between California and the feds will probably continue.

Just remember this the next time the federal government tries to scare us about not having enough money to stop terrorists sneaking over the borders with bombs made out of Cheez Whiz, twine and paper clips. Nope, they were busy wasting our money fighting the law we passed just to persecute a few potheads who are probably too high to even consider getting up off the couch, let alone blowing anything up.

News Mod: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Los Angeles Daily News (Woodland Hills, CA)
Author: Mariel Garza
Contact: mariel.garza@dailynews.com
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Website: LA Daily News - Busting pot clubs waste of tax funds
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