Sunday, February 14, 2021

This Is What You Get When State Law Conflicts With Federal Law

I'm not convinced that marijuana should be illegal.  Is it worse than whiskey?  I don't know.  But I do know many people who partake, and they seem to lead reasonable lives without any problems that I can trace to their particular vice.

If the feds legalized weed tomorrow, I wouldn't care.  If they said they were going to do a massive crackdown on businesses that sell it, I wouldn't care.  What I care about is having state laws that conflict with federal law, with no one enforcing the federal law.  When you have laws that you don't enforce, that breeds contempt for all laws.  Mixed messages is the smallest part of the problem.

So of course, my example comes from here in the DPRK:

What happened to Kelvin was the result of a vast gray area: For years, Californians could legally possess medical marijuana, but stores weren’t allowed to sell it—in fact, the whole supply chain bringing it to them was considered illegal. Now, even though the city and the state are licensing cannabis shops, Los Angeles continues to struggle with its legacy of legal confusion and selective enforcement. Businesses can appear legitimate, and even exist for years, without any legal license to operate. Many of the illegal shops are in Black and Latino neighborhoods, with their employees vulnerable to arrest while owners are shielded behind shell companies. So as police and prosecutors attempt to crack down on unlicensed dispensaries, they appear to be reproducing the very social inequalities that legalization was supposed to fix.

The illicit pot shop where Kelvin worked wasn’t an outlier: In fact, the majority of shops in LA are unlicensed. In the entire city, only 184 pot shops, less than 1 in 5, are licensed. Many Angelenos have no idea that the place they buy their cannabis—or in Kelvin’s case, report to work—might be operating outside the law. This gray-market section of the industry established itself over more than a decade, between about 2005 and 2018, when local politicians were reluctant to regulate an industry that was breaking federal law. Because it was technically OK by state law to provide pot to medical patients and receive a “donation” in return, and because many dispensary owners considered themselves activist entrepreneurs and took in a lot of money doing what they saw as civil disobedience, it was difficult for police to permanently shut down the new marketplace of brick-and-mortar shops. By the time the city managed to impose rules in 2018, creating a clear distinction for the public between legal and illegal businesses had become nearly impossible.

Stupid state laws (gotta love that "donation" idea) don't help. 

The feds should either enforce the law or change it.  The so-called gray area offers too much opportunity for graft, corruption, and selective enforcement.

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