The United States attorney in San Diego announced an ill-conceived effort to target newspapers and radio ads from medical marijuana dispensaries:
This month, U.S. attorneys representing four districts in California announced that the government would single out landlords and property owners who rent buildings or land where dispensaries sell or cultivators grow marijuana. Now, newspapers and other media outlets could be next.
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said marijuana advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.” Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state, but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far. [...]
Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication.” The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.
Because the law prohibits the “placing” of ads, it’s likely that it only applies to the dispensaries themselves and not to the newspaper and radio stations — but there’s no guarantee that media outlets cannot be prosecuted as well because a few courts have actually interpreted the law.
It is unfortunate that the Obama Administration would expend scarce prosecutorial resources on these kinds of cases. California’s marijuana dispensaries serve patients seeking medically prescribed treatments for their health conditions. Admittedly, it is also notoriously easy to obtain recreational marijuana from these dispensaries as well, but so what? Forty-two percent of Americans will smoke marijuana at some point in their lifetimes. Three people who’ve already used it are Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It’s difficult to justify treating an activity that nearly half of all Americans engage in as if it were a serious offense worthy of a potentially life-destroying jail sentence.
Harsh marijuana laws are hemorrhaging support, as a recent Pew survey shows a sharp and unambiguous trend in favor of legalization:
The numbers leave no doubt that the days of needless jail sentences for marijuana crimes are numbered. It’s time for the Obama Administration to get on the right side of history and back major reforms.