In Montana, medical marijuana patients turn to the street after feds raid dispensaries

In Montana, only 25 percent of medical marijuana businesses raided earlier this year have re-opened, prompting some patients to turn to street dealers as a safer way to get marijuana, according to MSNBC.

Some patients no longer trust the state to keep their information confidential, while others simply think legal businesses are now more likely to be raided than street dealers are.

In fact, one dispensary owner says he will never re-open a legal pot business but is thinking of getting involved in the street trade himself. “I’ll never pay taxes again,” he exclaimed.

From the story:

The uncertainty has left medical marijuana users wondering what’s coming next. Some who lost their caregivers after the raids have found other providers, a transaction that must be registered with the state.

But others have held back from switching or renewing their cards because they don’t want to leave a record with the state. They are fearful they may be targeted as criminals if the state law changes or if federal prosecutors decide to go after them.

A Bozeman patient said he won’t register with the state for just that reason and is buying marijuana from street dealers instead. The man spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is buying pot illegally.

“This is scary more than anything. You go from being a normal person to being a criminal,” the patient said. “But if I get it from a kid on the corner, it’s less likely for me to get in trouble buying it that way.”

“It is really sad that the federal government is trying to drive this back underground,” said Denver attorney Rob Corry, who represents medical marijuana interests.

Commenting on the letter from Department of Justice attorneys to the governor of Washington, wherein the feds declared that even state employees complying with directives from the Legislature may be prosecuted for violating the Controlled Substances Act, Corry said he could not predict if the feds would target Colorado next.

“No one knows. There is a certain randomness to the feds’ actions. There does not seem to be any overriding principle that the government can point to as the basis for their actions.

“Obama said in 2009 that he would devote no resources to prosecution of medical marijuana cases, and now, here we are. Some say the day is coming very quickly that they will move in to shut down every medical marijuana business in Colorado.

“It is federal arrogance, in my opinion,” he said. “I don’t get it. I don’t get how in an age of global terror and tanking economies that they can dedicate any resources to a plant.”

At one time, at least, Obama seemed to agree:

Karen O’Keefe, of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., said she didn’t think recent federal actions and letters in other states will have much bearing on Colorado.

She said the feds will always maintain the authority to prosecute, but that she didn’t believe Colorado was going to become a priority any time soon.

“This really should be an issue for the states to decide,” she said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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