Preparing for the upcoming federal confrontation on legalized marijuana

Norm Stamper has a good little piece in the Huffington Post: Washington State to the ‘Other’ Washington: Look But Don’t Touch

We now respectfully invite the federal government to look at, indeed to study our decision and its implementation. But we also ask the feds to keep their hands off our new law.

For years, decades, federal officials have snubbed science, avoided honest conversation, refused to debate the issues. With the administration (and Congress) rejecting calls to examine the economic, moral, and social costs of marijuana prohibition, the smartest thing it can do now is to monitor our incubator baby, give it a chance to survive and become a model for how to end an obscenely expensive and failed drug war.

It’s a good sentiment and a logical one — after all, what government that actually cared about the general welfare of its population wouldn’t look at this as a learning opportunity? But then, our federal government has not been particularly interested in logic or the general welfare.

The DOJ has been remarkably mute on the subject, choosing to let loose-cannon Kevin Sabet act as unofficial spokesperson for the federal government and anti-legalization.

However, if our experience with medical marijuana is any indication, then we can expect the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys to be gearing up for the confrontation.

So now is the time to consider strategies…

What seems to be pretty much a given is that the DEA will not go after consumers. They simply don’t have the staff to do it. 99% of possession arrests are by state and local police — if they’re not doing it under the new law (and they certainly better not be), then the feds can’t do much about it.

So, as with medical marijuana, they’ll go after the big suppliers. That’s almost impossible to defend against — the government’s ability to seize property and the visibility of large suppliers makes it easy picking.

So, to the extent possible, the smart thing would be to push for a lot of small suppliers — make it hard for the DEA to go after them and less of a loss if they do.

Pot Trucks

Perhaps the legal marijuana industry can take a page from the Food Truck fad. Create a fleet of pot trucks that can park in towns in regular parking spots and sell from the truck. Keep only one day’s supply on the truck. No land to seize and no valuable buildings. They could even sell food from the trucks.

If the DEA starts seizing trucks, go to the bike vendors. It would be quite a sight to see the DEA trying to chase these down.

Obviously all these things have to be worked out with the language of the state laws and it probably won’t be that simple.

But the point is that it should be possible to get creative and come up with ways to make it prohibitively difficult for the federal government to interfere (or embarrassing PR). That may mean that it’ll also be harder for anyone to make big profits — but that’s OK to me if it means getting a workable legal system in place and driving the federal government out of local enforcement.

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