The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Across the nation, cannabis advocates in and out of the medical marijuana arena in recent weeks have been trumpeting a New World Order where weed is concerned. The feds vowed to back off of dispensaries and the banks that want to serve them; and Sanjay Gupta flipped his stance on cannabis, saying he hadn't really looked much at the stuff, and now that he has, well, it's legit. All hail the Gupta.
But lest we forget, there are still a lot of folks out there who think cannabis and its derivatives should be illegal, and the fact that they're not in the federal government is a dangerous thing indeed for cannabis users and advocates everywhere, or at least in the states where the hemp haters hate and advocates advocate. We're headed for a patchwork of laws that will force a traveler to buy meds 10 times on a cross-country drive, only to have to ditch them at the state line for every dry state. It will also splinter the legalization fight into potentially dozens of state and local battles.
Although I think we're on a slope slipping toward lifting of the federal prohibition—even Arizona Sen. John McCain said at a town hall meeting last month in Tucson that legalization is a "conversation we need to have"—there is plenty of fight left in cannabis fighters, even if the federal government comes to its collective senses. To wit:
That Big Guy in New Jersey was hailed as a hero recently when he signed legislation making medical cannabis available to children, should their doctors and parents agree. Um, but since Chris Christie took office just one cannabis dispensary has opened.
The medical cannabis law took effect right before he was elected, and the Republicanish governor hasn't exactly urged the process along. So patient Richard Caporusso and Dr. Jeffrey Pollack sued, asking a judge to at the very least force the state health board to explain under oath what's taking so long.
Meanwhile, legislators have twice passed resolutions expressing outrage that the program as designed isn't what they wanted when they approved the broad strokes. A lawyer for the state argued before appellate judges in Caporusso and Pollack's case that the state isn't dragging its feet. They're just being thorough.
Yes, thoroughly annoying.
The State With A Hook On The Eastern End passed its medical marijuana law in 2012, and the state promptly set about creating a program to get meds to patients in a timely, responsible manner. In May they published rules.
But last year, when the state approved the program, towns erupted in a fit of objections, many raising their pitchforks and torches to try to ban dispensaries. Nope, said the judges, you can't ban them, so the rowdy peasantry regrouped in a lawsuit trying to find a way to block dispensaries through 2015. Wtf? The judge ruled that's ridiculous.
Way to go, judge.
In our own great state, the Department of Health Services warned dispensary operators that prosecutors consider cannabis oil—a much more controlled and effective way to dose edibles—as contraband. The health department is trying to work with them to figure out what to do, because criminal law still considers oils illegal. Only flowers are legal under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, law enforcers say.
I know what to do. How about STFU and let dispensaries give me the most efficient and pure way to get meds?
Anyway, don't get too excited about Gupta and the Holder Brigade changing their tunes. Even if the federal government keeps moving in the right direction, there are plenty of ways for cock-blockers to block, and for the contra-cannabis crowd to drag feet and resist the change we want to be in the world.
I suspect that even after (not if) the feds drop prohibition, there will be a strong phalanx of state and local do-gooders waiting to stand in your way.
Because plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.