By Jacob Sullum for reason. In a recent Forbes column, I described the limitations of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, a spending rider aimed at preventing the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. A trial that continues today at the federal courthouse in Tacoma illustrates one of those limitations: U.S. attorneys may claim the medical marijuana suppliers they choose to prosecute are not complying with state law, and that claim can be difficult to refute when the law is hazy, as it is in Washington.
Thanks to a federal indictment that was filed under seal in 2013 and made public in 2014, Lance Gloor faces up to 35 years in prison for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Lacey and the Key Peninsula. Like hundreds of other dispensaries that have been openly serving patients in Washington for years, those outlets identified themselves as “access points” for “collective gardens.” Under a 2011 law, such gardens are limited to 10 patients each and may grow no more than 45 plants at a time. By channeling the produce of many such gardens and treating customers (each of whom is supposed to have a recommendation from a “health care professional”) as temporary members of those collectives, dispensaries arguably complied with the letter of the law. But that interpretation is controversial, especially since the “collective garden” provision was not intended to authorize dispensaries, which were addressed by a separate provision that the governor vetoed.