Marijuana in California Highs and lows

From The Economist:

SMOKING marijuana can muddle the mind. But nothing makes the head spin like trying to keep up with marijuana law in California. A decision this week by the Los Angeles city council to ban the 800-odd outlets that sell the stuff in the city will only add to the confusion.

In 1996 California legalised the use of marijuana for medical purposes. (Sixteen other states, and Washington, DC, followed.) A multi-billion-dollar cultivation, distribution and retail industry emerged. Marijuana shops, euphemistically known as “dispensaries”, sprouted all over the state, exploiting legal loopholes, variations in local regulations or vaguely worded laws. In November 2010 a voter initiative to decriminalise the drug entirely (in small amounts) failed, but not by much.

Things have gone downhill for California’s pot-smokers since then. Federal law in the United States criminalises cannabis under all circumstances, and last year prosecutors began a crackdown on the industry in some (but not all) of the states in which it has been decriminalised, including California. Campaigners felt betrayed; their relationship with the feds had never been easy, but they thought Barack Obama had signalled that his government would not pick fights with states over marijuana. (Some demonstrators made their feelings known in Oakland this week, as the president made a campaign pit stop.)

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