Santa Clara to Ease -Up on Cannabis Dispensaries

In an interview with the local NBC news affiliate, newly elected District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that investigating and shutting down cannabis dispensaries will no longer be a top priority for his office. This announcement comes after an early revelation that Mr. Rosen has ordered one of his deputies to research the gray and confusing area of California marijuana laws, particularly the law on dispensaries. The underlying issue is whether cannabis dispensaries can exchange cannabis for cash as they are defined as non-profit associations. In 1996 the people of California voted for Proposition 215, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Law. Prop 215 allows patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, chronic migraines and other ailments, the right to buy, grow and possess marijuana for medical treatment, so long as they have a valid prescription. As the law stands a person with a valid medical card may grow, buy and possess as much cannabis as needed to treat the illness, so long as it is only for personal use. Unfortunately the language of Prop 215 is vague and sometimes ambiguous. The courts have attempted, with a modicum of success, to clarify the gray areas. Cannabis clubs have come under particular scrutiny because they exchange marijuana for cash. Under the law such dispensaries must do business without making a profit. Critics of the dispensaries argue that accepting money violates the non-profit requirement. Supporters of cannabis clubs argue that the money received goes to operating costs, maintenance and the like, much like a charity or any other non-profit. Law enforcement came under fire last year after a series of cannabis raids resulted in the arrest of dozens of people and forfeiture club assets. Some raise concerns that legitimate cannabis volunteers are be prosecuted and cannabis assets seized and not returned. The accusation is that law enforcement have an interest in raiding the clubs because portions of the seized assets are distributed to the various police agencies. Some of these agencies have vowed to continue investigating the local cannabis dispensaries despite the District Attorney's more reflective approach.

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