Interesting post (five days ago, but interesting!) from S.T. at PoliBlogger.
HAYWARD, CALIF. — Until federal drug agents arrested him last month, Shon Squier was one of Hayward's most successful and generous young businessmen.
Customers lined up outside his downtown storefront, particularly on Mondays, when he offered free samples to the first 50 visitors. Business was so good that Squier, a former construction worker, was able to donate more than $100,000 to local charities.
But Squier's success as a dynamic medical marijuana entrepreneur was also his downfall. Federal drug agents raided his home and business, arresting Squier and his store manager, freezing bank accounts containing $1.5 million and confiscating several expensive cars, motorcycles and $200,000 in cash.
Medical marijuana advocates claim the raid constitutes unfair, selective enforcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration of the estimated 170 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, including 85 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Just down the street, another medical marijuana dispensary, not as big or as flashy as Squier's, was left untouched by the DEA agents in the Dec. 11 raid.
The federal drug agency, which does not recognize California laws legalizing the sale of marijuana to patients with doctor's prescriptions, contends the amount of money involved proves that the medical marijuana trade is nothing more than high-stakes drug dealing, complete with the same high-rolling lifestyles.
"These people will tell you they are just interested in the terminally ill," said Gordon Taylor, DEA special agent in charge of the California eastern federal district, "but what they are really interested in is lining their pockets with illegal drug money. When you pull the mask off, you see that they are nothing more than common dope dealers."
California's two medical marijuana laws, Proposition 215, approved by voters in 1996, and Senate Bill 420, passed in 2003, are not clear about how much money proprietors can take out of their businesses. One section of SB 420 states that medical marijuana caregivers should be allowed "reasonable compensation" for their services. Another section states that distribution should be done on a nonprofit basis.
"The legislation is about as clear as mud the way that they wrote it," said Joe Elford, lawyer for Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group. "The dispensaries are legal under state law because they are cooperatives and collectives. It is my best guess in terms of what the Legislature intended is that they shouldn't be operating to make a profit."
It always used to be fun to make Soviet Union comparisons, back when they were the "Evil Empire" and not the "Limp Willie" they were for a while. But now the old Russia is back, with selective enforcement. If some businessperson gets too successful, you take him/her down. Don't want those darned free enterprisers to get too uppity, would we?