The Obama administration issued guidelines Monday officially reversing the federal stance on medical marijuana and ordering authorities not to arrest or charge any users and suppliers who conform to state laws. 

The new guidelines note that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources and that they need them for more pressing priorities.  Closer to home, A Superior Court judge concluded Monday that Los Angeles’ moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid and granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ban.  The ruling, challenges the city’s efforts to enforce the moratorium against the dispensaries that have opened in the last two years.

Last week, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steven Cooley announced that he intends to crack down and prosecute all of the county’s over-the-counter medical marijuana dispensing collectives. 

This, despite California Attorney General’s Office guidelines stating that dispensing medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under state law and local ordinances throughout the state regulating such activity.

Why the sudden aggressive action by the DA? 

One has to assume that reaction stems largely from the mess the city council created by the way it has handled this issue. 

Let’s face it; the city council dropped the ball when presented with the challenge of formulating a workable, balanced ordinance regulating medical-marijuana collectives.  In the years since, it has done little to rectify the problem and create rules to regulate the industry. 

To make matters worse, the temporary ordinance drafted created a “hardship exemption” loophole allowing dispensaries to open unregulated all over the city. 

Recently, the council finally started hearings on the hardship exemption.  The result has been an outright rejection of every application by the council members often with less than two minutes afforded to the applicant to present its case, leading to claims of “kangaroo justice.” 

And rightfully so, the dispensary operators are respectable members of our community who when afforded the opportunity by the city council to meet a strong demand, invested a lot of time and money in opening these dispensaries.  They didn’t do so illegally or with mal intent.  To attempt to penalize them now without genuine due process, just to cover up for its own mistakes is not only adherently wrong but uneconomical.  

So is the proposed action in the interest of the public or a defensive measure to protect the interest of the city council members who find themselves in a precarious position of having to answer these claims?  Is it a pre-emptive strike against the impending law suits that are sure to join the ones already filed against the city?  Or is it pandering to the base which is so staunchly against marijuana regardless of its benefits or use. 

We must examine this issue in a practical, apolitical manner and take a common sense approach to the issue.  After all, isn’t the ultimate goal legislation that benefits the public? 

Articles written about the spread of medical marijuana dispensaries often boast that there are more dispensaries than there are Starbucks coffee shops.  Well of course there are.  Why is that surprising?  What leads these writers to believe that the majority of the people in LA could afford or would want to spend $5 on a coffee on a daily basis?  This should not be such a shock.  To assume any different is at best arrogant. 

Marijuana’s medical benefits have been well documented.  A simple Google search will attest to that.  The use has been proven to be effective for anxiety, pain, nausea, depression, migraines, appetite stimulation, muscle spasms, insomnia and depending on who you speak with, a countless other benefits. 

I, myself, have been suffering from migraines ever since I started practicing law in the mid 90’s.  I had been a poster child for prescription Immitrex, as it was the only thing that could relieve my migraine.  Last year I noticed that I was beginning to take a higher and higher dosage to get the same benefit.   So a few months back, I got my doctor’s evaluation and tried cannabis. 

The result was surprising.  Not only did it relieve the pain but I did not experience the rapid heartbeat that came with taking Immitrex.   By the way, all I had to do to get the prescription for Immitrex was to tell my doctor that I was having recurring migraines.  There were no tests conducted on my head, no images taken, rather, my doctor, like many other doctors took my word for it and wrote out a prescription.  Fact is, there are many prescription drugs out there that are more dangerous, more addictive and more abused than marijuana which are being freely prescribed every day. 

I’m waiting to hear when Mr. Cooley plans on cracking down on that.  And the argument that these drugs are FDA tested and approved, I respond as follows, cannabis has been routinely tested and approved for thousands of years across many regions and cultures.  The pharmaceutical companies would love to own the patent to a drug that is so well documented and received.

So who will this crackdown really help?  Well, there is of course the city council members who will see a problem they created go away.  But there is a more sinister answer.  The legalized sale and distribution of medical marijuana in California and other States has profoundly impacted and damaged the Mexican drug cartels.  A major source of their revenue has been greatly reduced.  To turn back the clock will simply boost their profits and empower them further.  This will impact our communities and law enforcement resources. 

In fact, the Obama administration, in issuing its guidelines Monday, noted that one of their priorities is countering the spread of violent Mexican drug cartels, which use the vast profits from their marijuana sales in the United States to support other criminal activities. 

By the way, has anyone heard that LA must reduce its police force due to lack of funding? 

There is a set of standards in place that regulates the use and distribution of medical marijuana.  Like many other regulations on the books, it can be abused.  However the current standard requiring a doctor’s evaluation in order to get access to medical marijuana is a good plan.  It checks the age and residence of the patients.  It is in the interest of the dispensaries to prohibit sale to minors or risk losing their license.  Almost 40% of high school students in Los Angeles have used marijuana.  They are getting it from somewhere and it’s not from the over-the-counter dispensaries being targeted. The availability will persist; there just won’t be any control or a means to regulate. 

There has been a lot of talk that the tax revenue from the legal exchange of medical marijuana can greatly help the State and City’s nearly bankrupt coffers.  Why shouldn’t the DA’s office and the local government officials take responsible action in regulating medical marijuana? 

Dispensaries and the industries catering to them create good paying jobs, often for unskilled workers who would otherwise find it extremely difficult finding other employment in this job market.  These are thousands of people who would otherwise be dependant on City, State and Federal programs. 

Every dispensary forced to shut down is yet another vacant storefront in a long line of vacancies lining our streets.  It is another landlord that may be faced with bankruptcy for failing to meet its financial obligations.  It is yet another hit on our economy and our neighborhoods.

If you recall, a few years ago there was a yogurt shop or two sprouting on every city block.  But the fact is that a majority of them have closed.  Like any other new product, there is a mad rush to take advantage of that new opportunity, however, the market can only support so many vendors and ultimately will regulate itself.  Multiple dispensaries in a few city block area will simply not be able to compete and like any other segment in the free market system, the best business model will survive.  That’s good for the patients, good for the tax collector and most importantly, good for the community. 

You have taken a historically illegal enterprise that is clearly in high demand and have regulated it, set standards, have taxed it and have begun to remove the criminal element behind it.  What strategy in the never ending “war on drugs” has been able to yield such results?  This should be the kind of “record” every politician should strive to achieve.

But the macro arguments aside, how will the DA’s new proposed actions affect the people that prop 215 and SB 420 were created to serve?  Have doctors taken advantage of the law and liberally prescribe cannabis for seemingly any ailment?

Of course they have. 

But the fact remains that the majority of those patients were calling their local dealer and getting their pot anyway.  This is fact.  It has never been difficult finding access to marijuana; just ask any high school or college kid.  The people the DA’s action will affect most are the patient that needs it most.  Dave, an operator of, a non-profit medical marijuana free delivery service, serving greater Los Angeles, stated “many of our patients are old, in pain or do not have the means to visit a dispensary.  In the political battle over medical marijuana, they are the real victims. was created to serve those patients that truly require the medicine to help them increase their quality of life, whether they suffer from cancer, HIV or other ailments”. 

But what about the new proposal that would allow the collectives to operate so long as all the members are planting, growing and harvesting the marijuana they need? 

“Well in theory, that’s great, but in the real world these patients do not have the energy, wherewithal and ability to actively participate in the cultivation process.  Many are just trying to get by and maintain their quality of life in these hard economic times.  You have to be realistic!”

This article was guest commentary from John Bral. All opinion contained in this article belongs to John Bral. He submitted his guest commentary to the editor at