Should federal authorities be able to close medical marijuana dispensaries in California?
According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, placing it among narcotics like heroin, DMT, and Ecstasy in the country's most serious drug classification. Still, research has suggested that compounds found within marijuana may have therapeutic use in treating ailments like multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, Parkinson's disease, and even cancer. The FDA's official stance on the medical efficacy of marijuana states: "Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision."
The story of medical marijuana in the United States began in 1978, when Robert Randall was arrested for using marijuana to treat his glaucoma. Randall sued the United States and won, and the ruling required the FDA to provide Randall with marijuana for medicinal use. Since then, 16 states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana or marijuana-derived substances for medicinal use. In states like California and Colorado, marijuana can be purchased at state-sanctioned dispensaries, and this business has become the epicenter of a national dialogue because growing, selling, and purchasing marijuana remain decidedly illegal under federal law.
Two rulings since 2001, United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Gonzales v. Raich, reaffirmed the federal government's commitment to prosecuting buyers and sellers in states where marijuana has been approved for medical use. Yet, in the early days of the Obama administration, the Department of Justice announced that federal prosecutors would not target dispensaries that obey state laws. In California, subsequent lack of regulation caused the multiplication of dispensaries. On October 7, the four U.S. attorneys for the state of California announced plans to shut down large-scale, for-profit dispensaries in the state, alleging that they do not comply with state regulations.
Should federal authorities be able to close medical marijuana dispensaries in California? Here is Debate Club's take: