Although state law in California says that marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use, marijuana laws in the state are confusing. California marijuana dispensaries may or may not be legal. According to federal law, they are against the law. And although state law declares marijuana use legal, the state law allows for the raids of some dispensaries. Find out the nuances of marijuana laws in California.
Are California Marijuana Dispensaries Legal?
It’s a simple question with a very complicated answer. Before you can fully understand it, you need to know the current laws about marijuana use in California. In November of 2017, California legalized recreational marijuana. However, that does not make recreational pot sales legal. Most likely, sales will start in 2018. Until then, California marijuana dispensaries are not necessarily legal.
With the passage of the new law, adults can possess and smoke marijuana for recreational use in California. Naturally, people want to buy that marijuana. However, the rules that will regulate the industry are not yet set in stone. Until they are, the Los Angeles Police Department is enforcing old marijuana laws.
The last laws regarding the sale of marijuana were referred to as Proposition D. Passed in 2013, Proposition D gave 135 medical California marijuana dispensaries in LA limited immunity. As long as those dispensaries stick to the regulations, they can stay running. Other dispensaries have no immunity. Despite the legality of both recreation and medical marijuana, they could face legal repercussions for the sale of marijuana.
For the time being, marijuana growers and the producers of marijuana edibles have no protection from the police. If the police want to, then they can raid California marijuana dispensaries. Then, they can confiscate equipment and make arrests. It makes owning a cannabis business very dangerous.
Unfortunately, the LAPD uses the delay in marijuana law changes to hurt local cannabis business owners. Recently, they raided some businesses. Although the LAPD does not raid dispensaries that comply with Proposition D, they have free reign over all other cannabis businesses. This includes commercial grow businesses that need to prepare for the demand for legal recreational marijuana.
The LAPD claims that they only conduct a raid if there is probable cause of a crime. However, many of the dispensaries commit no crime. They only violate the old marijuana laws. For example, consider the raid on one LA business. At 7:30 am, the police raided a dispensary. They handcuffed a pregnant woman and a man with cancer. Then, they walked them down the street. After getting to the precinct, the officers released them and filed misdemeanor marijuana charges. In the raid, the police arrested one employee and a security guard. They arrested the guard for having a gun. However, it was a legal gun. They released him with no charges.
The real damage came in the form of lost equipment. During the incident, police took necessary equipment and 3,000 marijuana plants. With a value of $900,000 at harvest, the plants were a major loss to the business. Police also turned off the power, making it impossible for the business to re-open.
Other LA cannabis business owners worry about more raids. Instead of preparing their businesses for the legalization of marijuana, they worry about the police closing them down. There is no way for them to focus on the future when the present is at risk.
Another are of concern is the police force. When the police raid cannabis businesses, they show up in riot gear. They use a great deal of force on people who are willing to cooperate. It seems as if there is some unfair treatment. There is no need for such force.
What About Federal Law?
Adding to the confusion regarding the legality of marijuana dispensaries is federal law. According to federal law, marijuana is still an illegal drug. It is a controlled substance that has the same classification as heroin. As such, marijuana is not legal in any form or for any use. It contradicts state law. However, federal law trumps state law.
The federal government does not try to intervene with the states on the issue of marijuana. They don’t enforce the law, although they could. The government could take an interest in stopping the sale of marijuana. For now, it doesn’t. But until federal law changes and legalizes marijuana, there is a risk. Things could change at any moment.
The federal law also complicates the finances of running such a business. Because the business is illegal, banks don’t like to handle the money. Armored car companies have the same policy. As a result, cannabis business owners need to store and handle the money themselves. About 70% of them don’t have bank accounts. With so much revenue potential, this makes for a dangerous situation. Storing thousands or millions of dollars is not safe or practical.
Clearly, the law is confusing when it comes to the use and sale of marijuana. Although state laws moved forward with time, federal law did not. For now, the industry is still a dangerous one. There is no guarantee that the government won’t take legal action against cannabis businesses.