California Case Illustrates Federal-State Conflict Over Pot Enforcement


Matthew Davies, 34, with no criminal record, tells the New York Times he meticulously followed California law in setting up a medical marijuana business in 2009 that generated $8 million in annual revenues. Now he faces a federal prison term. “This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,” his attorney, Elliott Peters, told Attorney General Eric Holder. “Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.”

The Justice Department disputes the depiction of Davies as anything other than a major-league drug trafficker. Davies “was the major player in a very significant commercial operation that sought to make large profits from the cultivation and sale of marijuana,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento. The case illustrates the struggle states and the federal government are facing as they seek to deal with the changing contours of marijuana laws and public attitudes toward the drug. Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use last year, and are among the 18 states, and the District of Columbia, that allow its medical use.

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