California Marijuana Clubs Continue to Operate Despite Supreme Court Ruling to Shut Down Oakland Cooperative
Despite a Supreme Court ruling in May that found a federal law banning the distribution of marijuana "takes precedence" over the drug's potential medical use, federal agencies have not taken action against the nearly 20 large-scale distributors of the drug in California and other states, the Washington Post reports. Even those states that allow the distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes do not have "mechanism[s]" to distribute the drug to those with a need, so cannabis distribution centers have "popped up to fill the void." After the Supreme Court's ruling, many patients "feared" that federal agents would close down the clubs, as states "defer[red]" action on the ruling to federal agencies, which are responsible for enforcing the court's decision. Scott Imler, president and executive director of a not-for-profit cannabis center in West Hollywood, Calif., said that the federal government is allowing operations to continue to avoid a "public relations disaster," as the groups are supplying the drug to AIDS and cancer patients. However, Imler added that politicians also want to appear "tough" on drug use. "It's a political hot potato," he said. Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the agency will enforce federal laws on medical marijuana, but added that "there are a lot of different aspects that we have to consider as we develop [an] enforcement policy." The Post reports that even if the DEA were to shut down the large distribution centers, it does not have the manpower to prevent "smaller operations" or "black market" sales (Adler, Washington Post, 8/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.