They're more than a decade overdue, but the guidelines on medical marijuana issued this week by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown could finally help divide the gray area in which the state's growers and dispensers operate into clearer shades of black and white.
Brown's 11-page directive is aimed at giving police the ability to distinguish between criminals and legitimate medical marijuana sellers under state law, as well as protecting patients from arrest. It won't stop federal drug enforcement agents from raiding law-abiding dispensaries and prosecuting innocent business owners whenever they see fit, but it will make such raids harder to justify -- and might ramp up the pressure for more sensible federal marijuana policies.
When California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215 in 1996, allowing the sale and use of marijuana for people with demonstrated medical needs, it set off a host of consequences both positive and negative. As voters intended, thousands of people suffering from AIDS, glaucoma and other serious ailments now have access to a safe, legitimate treatment. Yet as voters didn't intend, the state is now riddled with dispensaries that employ on-site doctors who will write a prescription to nearly anyone who walks through the door, while places such as Humboldt County have been invaded by criminal elements running underground grow houses to supply these middlemen.