If you like drama and marijuana together, then 2012 was the year for you: It was jam-packed with topsy-turvy cannabis news.
As the Obama administration cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California, the president himself said pot users in marijuana-legal states shouldn't be prosecuted. Come again?
Here's our list of top pot stories for 2012. Hold on to your bongs:
10. Pot prices drop. After the U.S. Department of Justice's crackdown on state-legal medical marijuana in California, you would think that the Golden State would have become a Mojave Desert of weed. Quite the contrary: Prices plummeted in spring because big growers in the northern half of the state had a surplus crop they couldn't sell to legit outlets that either closed or were afraid to operate. Oops? And, yay (for consumers).
9. Marijuana for profit? The crux of the debate over the legality of marijuana dispensaries often comes down to whether the law allows profit-taking in the distribution of such medicine. The likes of L.A.'s own City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, says it doesn't. The guy who wrote the law, SB 420, made a stand: Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos said the law was indeed intended to allow for retail-style, for-profit sales of pot. However: Trutanich's office says California courts have ruled that notion out of existence. Today, it's still up in the air, sort of like what you just exhaled.
8. Unluckiest pot proponent ever. Southern California pot shop operator Aaron Sandusky bravely fought the law. And the law won. He stood up to federal prosecutors who essentially said he was a drug dealer for operating G3 Holistics dispensaries in the Inland Empire. Sure medical marijuana is legal in California. But feds don't recognize that. Now Sandusky faces life behind bars.
7. Marijuana as medicine. President Obama himself has said there's not much he can do about the illegality of marijuana. It's a law. Not his law. But decriminalization advocates have been pushing his administration on that point — all the way to federal court. The group Americans for Safe Access has challenged the DEA regarding its “scheduling” of pot as an outlaw drug with no medical benefits. That's not law, it's policy. In fact, ASA, argues, there is evidence of medicinal qualities for weed. If the group wins, it might be harder for feds to prosecute pot shops in medical marijuana states like California. Results are pending.
6. Pot shops and crime. Despite our victory dance last year when RAND withdrew a study that said local dispensaries seem to reduce neighborhood crime after we had some serious questions about the data, it's nice to see that your friendly neighborhood weed retailer is indeed not much more dangerous than Trader Joe's. UCLA researchers concluded “the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates … ” Good 'cause that stuff makes us paranoid.
5. Call 911. A sad part of modern drug law means that some of you party people are afraid to call for help when your friend passes out from too much chronic and/or whatever else you're doing. A new law by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano should put a stop to this madness. It provides immunity to people with small amounts of drugs on them who want to call paramedics when a friend overdoses.
4. You like your pot. Despite repeated attempts by the city of Los Angeles to choke out the medical marijuana business, the people have spoken: According to November exit polling by Loyola Marymount University 56 percent of Angeleno voters support “the cultivation, prescription (recommendation), and distribution of medical marijuana.” So why was the city trying to ban dispensaries again?
3. Obama says smoke 'em if you got 'em. Sort of. Strange days, though, when the Obama administration's Department of Justice is going after medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. and the president is saying that small-time pot users shouldn't be prosecuted in medical-legal states. Obama told Barbara Walters recently that federal authorities “have bigger fish to fry,” adding: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal.” Um. Okay.
2. L.A. crack down. So Obama is like, Blah-blah-blah smoking weed is no big deal I used to do it. Then his administration targets every pot shop in downtown and Eagle Rock and tells them to shut their doors or be prosecuted like common drug dealers? That's exactly what happened in September. Each and everyone one of those shops got warning letters and then follow-up visits by federal agents. Wisely, some if not many closed their doors.
1. Dispensaries live! After the L.A. City Council banned all pot shops in town, dispensaries organized and fought back with a referendum that forced the council to either bring the matter to voters or overturn its own ban. It did the latter. Pot shops remain and, perhaps, thrive (except for those in downtown and Eagle Rock), although there are now two ballot initiatives aiming for May that would regulate and even shut down many shops, depending on how you vote. Your weed is safe for now.