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July 23rd, 2009
12:32 PM ET

With 'Med Pot' Raids Halted, Selling Grass Grows Greener

Program Note: For more on the medical marijuana controversy,  tune in to America's High, an AC360° special program, on Friday, July 24 at  11pm ET.

Justin Scheck and Stu Woo
Wall Street Journal

Sellers of marijuana as a medicine here don't fret about raids any more. They've stopped stressing over where to hide their stash or how to move it unseen.

Now their concerns involve the state Board of Equalization, which collects sales tax and requires a retailer ID number. Or city planning offices, which insist that staircases comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Then there is marketing strategy, which can mean paying to be a "featured dispensary" on a Web site for pot smokers.

After years in the shadows, medical marijuana in California is aspiring to crack the commercial mainstream.

"I want to do everything I can to run this as a legitimate business," says Jan Werner, 55 years old, who invested in a pot store in a shopping mall after 36 years as a car salesman.

State voters decreed back in 1996 that Californians had a right to use marijuana for any illness - from cancer to anorexia to any other condition it might help. But supplying "med pot" remained risky. The ballot measure didn't specify who could sell it or how. The state provided few guidelines, leaving local governments to impose a patchwork of restrictions. Above all, because pot possession remained illegal under U.S. law, sellers had to worry about federal raids.

But in February, the Justice Department said it would adhere to President Barack Obama's campaign statement that federal agents no longer would target med-pot dealers who comply with state law. Since then, vendors who had kept a low profile have begun to expand, and entrepreneurs who had avoided cannabis have begun to invest.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Marijuana • Medical News
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Melody

    If marijuana alleviates physical pain for sick people, why is there so much opposition? As a legitimate business in California, marijuana sales will be taxed like all other businesses. So what is the big deal? If some people abuse their medically permitted use of marijuanna, I could only assume they would be prosecuted and sent to jail. Isn't that what happens to people who break the law? If there are unauthorized sales and usage of marijuana, the long arm of the law would correct the problem It would be overkill to throw out the baby with the bath water. What is the big fear here?

    July 23, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  2. Jacqueline

    I've never tried weed and I never plan to, however from a revenue standpoint I don't see why the government does not legalize it. In this time of economic crisis it would create jobs and tax revenue that is needed to help with the massive debt the United states government is racking up. If you ask me marijuana is much less harmful and destructive than alcohol, people who smoke pot don't get into fights or smash things up. Legalization would also keep recreational smokers away from the criminal element and stop people from giving funds to drug cartels etc.

    July 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  3. Heidi Berg

    I would have to say I am not sure were I stand on this.I just keep picturing in my head this place I went to callled Rainbow Vally and it was not a good thing people ...children of very young age were just freely doing drugs .and instead of bollons and hot dogs at the boths they were selling pipes and dope.I know that is far off ,but when I left there I was glad there were laws and order to keep us in check.Let face it we are not responsible ,

    July 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Aaron

    Yeah im pretty sure ive never heard on anyone dying of a marijuana overdose.. and if states can tax it and make profit, why not? its not like our government couldnt use the money. the revenue from legalizing mary jane would be in the billions.. i say legalize.

    July 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  5. Joanne R. Pacicca

    If marijuana is a gateway drug that is only because of the diversification of sales option exercised by the people who sell it. This should be settled, legalized, taxed, and fined when appropriate. Tobacco and alcohol are far worse. Although inhaling smoke is bad, it is assumed that one would not smoke the weed at the same comsumptive level as tobacco. As far as "mind stealing"...marijuana smokers are slow and paranoid, whereas alchohol causes tens of thousands of deaths every year...the dilemma is hardly anything but harsh, inaccurate and bad propaganda.

    July 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  6. Reiko

    the only reason it is a "gateway drug" is because it is the first drug most kids are exposed to and it is also the easiest to acquire so it will always be a gateway to harder substances but people still must be smart enough to recognize marijuana won't ruin a life like cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. will

    July 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  7. aman

    Boooooo, Erin. shallow thinker.

    July 23, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  8. Gerard

    Don't be a idiot Erin. MJ a gateway drug? That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. You might as well say so are cigarettes and alchol. I know how stupid a drunk can get I don't think it compares to someone stoned.

    July 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  9. mac

    I hate when people say weed is a gateway drug. take a walk through some high drug using areas and you'll find plenty of crack users that have never smoked weed. there's also many weed smokers that have never even smoked tobbaco. A gateway drug is a drug used by someone looking for something more. That person is the gateway, not the drug.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  10. mg

    I hope Anderson Cooper mentions the book that is at the forefront of the debate. EveryDay Life.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  11. matt

    Marijuana the best known gateway?....how about our legal friend alcohol, thats for those that buy into the gateway theory in the first place.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  12. Presley

    Good for them.
    And to the recreational, non-medicinal users, this is a step forward to the rest of us, uh, I mean the rest of YOU, so let's not abuse the availability to those who really do benefit, they are the priority right now.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    Medical marijuana is suppose to be good for arthritis and muscle spasms, two things I deal with on a daily basis and take prescribed medications for. Sometimes the medication is effective, sometimes its not. I don't see myself wanting to even to try it – I don't smoke anything now and don't want to start. For those who say it relieves their pain I do wish they would legalize it.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Mareike (in Los Angeles)

    Marijuana IS helpful to a lot of people and is less harmful than alcohol for most recreational users. Regardless of that the "war on drugs" is ineffective. The billions of dollars wasted on this would be better spent on helping people and reducing the demand. It seems to me that the criminalization of certain drugs is responsible for most of the violent crimes related to them and makes addicts less likely to seek help when they are ready. I don't think we can legislate what people do to their own bodies; we can legislate to provide help.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  15. RedondoGirl47

    Marijuana is the only substance that relieves my husband from his extremely painful back problems. Surgery is not recommended for him because of his terrible atherosclerosis. Problem is that he gets medical services from the VA hospitals and they always test for substances. He has to go weeks without pot so he can pass the tests and during this "time out" his pain is almost unbearable. The Federal government should allow marijuana to be sold legally and also taxed. Taxing marijuana would bring millions to the California coffers. Who should we petition for this to be legalized?

    July 23, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Christy

    Erin, I have been smoking pot since I was 15 I have never done another drug. Never wanted too. I was around alot more drugs than pot and offered them but I said no. The whole gateway thing is just a scare tactic and propaganda to scare people from smoking pot. And I seriously doubt that the government will approve cocaine or heroin for any medical reason because the risks of those drugs are far greater and a whole lot worse than those of pot. Pot has no medical risks. It not addictive in the way pain pills are if you did quit you would'nt have the withdrawl tht you have from opiates. Actually you dont have much of a withdrawl at all. The health risks are about the same as ciggarettes. And if I am in a lot of pain, I would rather smoke pot than take pills that have no telling what in them and can get me addicted and would send me to a rehab to detox all the poisen that is in a Vicodin or Percocet or Morphine (nd those things are the ame as heroin or opiium just not as powerful)

    July 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Marc

    Erin, alcohol and television are the "best known gateway" drugs.

    July 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  18. Sharon,Daniel Island, South Carolina

    is it legal to grow this product in another state and sell it in california. or would that be considered interstate trafficking

    July 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  19. Erin

    not sure where I stand. it is still the best known gateway... so, will other drugs now try to be 'sold' as medicinal?? where's the line? is there one?? who's overseeing?

    July 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  20. James R.

    Why not mention the ammount of jobs and paying for healthcare that could be created....

    July 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm |